by Katherine Longshore
to be published by Viking
on June 3, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads: Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?
My take: I love historical fiction, and these Tudor-era books by Katherine Longshore are some of my favorites in the YA age range. This is the third book if you read them in order of publication, but if you haven't started these, you might want to read them in historical order. Tarnish -- probably my favorite of the three -- takes place from 1523-1525 and features a teenaged Anne Boleyn and her introduction to court. Brazen takes place between 1533-1536 and is about Mary Howard, the young wife of Henry VIII's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, but also features Anne Boleyn, now queen. Gilt takes place from 1539-1542 and is told from the perspective of Kitty Tylney, a childhood friend of Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard (a cousin of Mary Howard.)
While it's hard for anyone -- real or fictional -- to compete with the fierce, wily intelligence of Anne Boleyn as portrayed in Tarnish, Mary Howard Fitzroy in Brazen is a character who breaks your heart in a completely different way. Mary is the child of an unhappy marriage and longs to love and be loved. When she's married to the king's bastard son at the age of fourteen or fifteen, she's shy and unsure. But -- fortunately or unfortunately -- the king has forbidden the two of them from consummating their marriage, so the couple is kept at a distance, both virtual and emotional. Both of them have psychological scars -- she from the competing machinations of her parents, he from the hot and cold affections of his father -- and it was sweet to watch them form a bond that's first tentative, then very close.
I love the way these books emphasize the way that most everyone in the Tudor court -- but especially the women -- served as pawns for the king's passing whims, desires, and schemes. If you've watched The Tudors on Showtime or read anything about this period, you know that intrigue abounds -- crossing and double-crossing, secret liaisons, and tragic endings. (If you've watched the show, just know that the writers took some liberties with Henry Fitzroy's story in season one.) Speaking of that, I love that Katherine Longshore's books come with a detailed afterword in which she details which parts of her story are documented and which she had to imagine.
If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend these books. If you haven't read them, I say start with Tarnish -- both the book and the audiobook are fantastic. If you've read Tarnish, then you'll love the fact that Brazen is its own story while also continuing to follow Anne Boleyn ill-fated stint as queen.