Tarnish

First Lines: A deep breath is all it takes to enter a room.  Or to scream.  Or both.

I think this was the first book by Katherine Longshore that caught my attention, but I wanted to read them in the order they were published.  So this one had to wait until I’d read Gilt.  But seriously, I cannot turn down a book about Anne Boleyn.  I don’t have the strength.

Anne Boleyn fears she won’t ever fit in at King Henry VIII’s court.  She’s too spirited, too French in her fashion, too outspoken.  So when the dashing poet Thomas Wyatt offers to train her in courtly ways–and pretend they’re lovers–she accepts.  It’s not long before Anne is one of the most popular women at court–even catching the eye of the king himself.  But Anne wants more than popularity.  She wants a voice.  She wants to find love.  What starts as a game ends with Anne having to decide whether to follow her heart…or make history.

Ok, I’m just going to start by saying that I’m completely biased already for two reasons: one, I love historical fictions.  They turn me into a giddy schoolgirl.  I mean, I watched an episode of The Tudors before reading this to really get a feel for the time period.  (And I so do not regret that, since that also dealt with a young and vivacious Henry VIII, one of which I am not very familiar.)  And two: I love the drama surrounding Henry VIII’s court.  Oh my God.  The opulence, the cattiness, the alliances.  It’s fabulous in a 1500s version of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Longshore truly has a gift when it comes to historical fictions.  She easily takes historical figures that we’re all familiar with–King Henry, Anne Boleyn, etc.–and turns them into people.  Anne becomes more than just the doomed queen.  She’s a young girl who’s scared of court but doesn’t want to show it.  She’s a girl who can’t filter her thoughts, even in front of the king himself.  She’s a girl who just wants her father’s acceptance.  But most of all, she’s a girl who wants control of her own life in a world entirely ruled by men.  I came to understand her as a person and separate her from the cold, hard facts I knew about her.

Another strength of Longshore’s is nailing down the time period.  As I mentioned, I watched The Tudors prior to this as a way to experience that time period before reading.  (I figured they’d done their homework.)  And Longshore very closely matched much of what I saw there.  There were jousts, a young and spry King Henry who is actually devilishly handsome, sonnets, courtly romances, and secrets dangerous enough to ruin entire families.  It does take a while to really sink into the Tudor world, but once you do it’s totally worth it.

I was a little disappointed on the aspects of Anne’s life this book chose to focus on.  I guess I was expecting it to be more like Gilt, which focused more on the end of Catherine Howard’s life, but this was set when Anne was still a teenager, nearly a decade before she became the King’s wife.  So unfortunately, the truly scandalous aspects of Anne’s life are not to be found here.  But it was still an interesting story.

And also because of when this story takes place, there are chunks of the story that are simply boring.  We don’t know historically what Anne was doing at that point, so there are gaps in the story.  Longshore attempts to fill them in, but they lack the same vibrancy as the other parts of the story.

Overall it’s definitely an entertaining read.  And great insight into the British monarchy during the Tudor reign.  Backstabbing and secrets, yay!

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