by Abby Graeme
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
May 1, 2012
Source: bought from independent bookstore
My summary: It's 1912, and eighteen year old Maggie Darlington has suddenly gone from vivacious to moody. Her younger sister Lila longs to be taken seriously, while their parents cope with the unexpected arrival of their fourth child. Times are changing, too. Some titled British families can no longer afford to maintain their estates. Rich arrivistes from the colonies are shaking things up, the servants are restive, and a mysterious gossip columnist is spilling everyone's secrets.
My take: Fans of the Luxe series by Anna Godbertson will love this book. It's told from multiple POVs, giving it a true upstairs/downstairs perspective. While it's not long on historical detail, it is full of plotting and scheming, romance, parties, and secrets.
Are you looking for something with a little more historical heft?
by Katherine Longshore
Published by Viking Juvenile
on May 15, 2012
Source: e-ARC from NetGalley
My summary: Kitty, Gilt's narrator, is one of the girls of Norfolk House, a protege-slash-lackey of the Duchess of Norfolk. The girls dream of going to the Tudor court of Henry VIII, meeting royals and wearing beautiful jewels and gowns. The most ambitious and cunning of the girls is Catherine Howard. Cat practices her flirting on a local boy as she schemes her way into an invitation to be a lady in waiting to Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife. When Cat catches the king's eye, she's able to bring the Norfolk girls to court. But court life is filled with intrigue, double-crosses and betrayals. Kitty will have to watch her step so she doesn't lose her head.
My take: I'm a total sucker for this kind of story. I watched the Tudors (but not up to season 4, which featured Catherine Howard) and the highlight of my trip to England was a day spent at the Tower of London. Gilt is a fantastic blend of history and fiction. The book makes the most of the real-life intrigue that seems to have been a part of court life, while also looking at the issues of female friendship and male vs. female roles in society.
The title is a nice conceit. Gilt is but a shiny overlay, and this book doesn't gloss over the grim realities and hypocrisies of the time. Women's virtue is prized, yet their sexuality and fertility are all they have at their disposal to better their circumstances. At the time of the story, Henry VIII was no handsome storybook hero, but an overweight, short-tempered man with a roving eye and a festering leg wound. Kitty calls him "mean and piggy." Wellborn men and women were all looking for a leg up, so to speak. "Looking for advancement," Cat says. "Looking for a crack into which they can wedge a fingernail. To chip off the gilt."
Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Tudor history will know that things can't end happily for poor Cat. But I greatly enjoyed watching all the twists and turns of this tale play out.
Do you love historical thrillers? Then don't miss...
by Elizabeth Wein
Published by Hyperion Books for Children
May 15, 2012
Source: e-ARC from NetGalley
My take: The story begins in an epistolary form, with Verity's writings. She's compared to Scheherazade, the young girl in a Persian folk tale who volunteers to spend one night with the king, knowing that he has killed every woman he has entertained. But Scheherazade's stories so captivate the king that he keeps her alive for 1001 nights. I was captivated too, especially once I began to learn more about Maddie. The friendship between Maddie and Verity is realistic and heartfelt.
How do you feel about historical fiction? Have you read any of these, or are you planning to?
Readathon update: I've finished two books. Starting Of Poseidon today!