First Lines: Marriage is a word that tastes like metal–the steel of armor, the gold of commerce, the iron bite of blood and prison bars. But also bronze. A bell that rings clear and true and joyously. Like hope.
I started reading this about the time that I discovered that many many lines up my family tree, I’m actually linked in with some of these minor characters. (If the research is correct, I’m descended from Hotspur, King Edward IV, and a cousin to Jane Seymour. But take that with a grain of salt until I can confirm that.) Still, it was fascinating and suddenly, these characters were real. I was desperate to learn more.
As a Howard, Mary has always grown up knowing that family and reputation come first. So it’s not a surprise when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son. It’s her duty as a Howard, after all. And with this marriage comes Mary’s place in court. Together, Mary and “Fitz” become friends with other rebellious teens in the king’s court and push the boundaries of what is accepted. Much to Mary’s surprise, she finds herself falling for Fitz. But court rules say it is forbidden for her to be alone with Fitz. Suddenly, the only thing Mary wants is the one thing she can’t have: her own husband. Most rules can be pushed…but is love worth dying for?
I was super excited to read this one because–FINALLY–we were getting a Longshore romance. There were glimpses of it in her other books, but now we were really going to have a love story.
Well…not quite. Longshore’s strength is, again, her weakness. While her history is meticulous and beautifully described, it takes away from the emotion of the story. And so, the love story came off feeling a little emotionally detached. Don’t get me wrong though, they still feel like real people and their struggles are clearly conveyed. But they don’t always…express emotions in a way that can be felt. Does that make sense? Weirdly?
I know I’ve already mentioned this, but Longshore’s research is her shining star. There are so many different things she factors into the story. She’s clearly done a ton of research (and she lists books in the back for further reading, if you’re interested) and it is utterly fascinating. Obviously, there are some moments where she takes liberties, but it’s historical fiction. There’s wiggle room.
One thing that sort of bothered me about this book was its pace. For most of the book, Mary or the others are waiting for something. For a party, for the King’s return, for a stolen moment with Fitz. Whatever it was, there was a lot of waiting. It got a bit boring and seriously slowed down the pace. This 500+ page book did not need anything slowing it down.
Truly, though, it’s a delightful read. But you probably want to have an interest in this time period or it might seem a bit dull. Or maybe not. I’m a history buff; I can’t get out of the mindset of “Oh, history! This is COOL!”