Friday, September 19, 2014

Do You Fight For Love or Survival?

"The first thing you have to learn is this: 
in Queen Anne Boleyn's court, there is only one rule...
The only rule in your cousin's court is that there are no rules.
She doesn't follow them.
So why should we?"
--Katherine Longshore, Brazen

Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pages: 528
Publication Date: June 12th, 2014
Source: Bought
Previous Books in Series: Gilt & Tarnish

Goodreads Description

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?

The Characters 

Oh my word, does Katherine Longshore know how to develop her characters. Seriously. While I love historical fiction for the untold stories and the setting, it is always the characters that I want to fall in love with. I want to know the life and love and loss of somebody that actually lived that long ago and was maybe overlooked a little. That fictional insight into what could have been drives my love for this genre every single time. Katherine Longshore doesn't hold back in this final book of her Tudor Court series. In this book we follow Mary Howard, then Mary Fitzroy, wife to Henry VIII bastard son Henry Fitzroy. I didn't have a lot of prior knowledge about Fitz and especially not his wife so I was a little hesitant if I would get into as much as her other books...oh why did I even doubt?

Mary is 14 at the beginning of the book and is getting married...say what? Yep. 14 years old in a court of deception and somewhat chaos. Mary has always been the one to do the right thing; by her father, her king, her queen, her country. But when she is forced to live apart from her new husband and not get to know him, she starts to see the cracks in the foundation of this life. Her growth and strength does not come easily and this is what I loved about her. She wasn't quick to react and she was smart. Anne Boleyn herself even told her she reminded her of herself at that age. Well, if that isn't like the greatest compliment of all time. Jealous. In the dangerous game of court politics, Mary keeps her head on straight...for the most spoilers. While it doesn't come easily, her independent voice does come. I loved watching her grow into somebody Anne would be proud of while still keeping her head firmly attached to her neck...too far?

Not only did I LOVE Mary but Fitz...holy freakin' swoon! This boy was a poet and owned words. The things he said to Mary were so heartfelt and thoughtful and honest that I was falling in love with him myself. Wow. I thought Thomas Wyatt had a way with the swoon (and he does) but this guy was giving him a run for his money. Their relationship grew into so much more than either of them could have ever hoped for. It was sweet and innocent yet wildly passionate. It was this juxtaposition of youth yet maturity. It was amazing to put it simply.

The secondary characters are nothing to slouch at either. I LOVE LOVE LOVED seeing Anne Boleyn as Queen even thought it was in the midst of her downfall, I never tire of snarky words and putting people in their place...especially Jane Seymour...what a bitch. Anyways. Mary's brother Hal was a perfect comic relief for an otherwise very serious place. Madge was annoying but I knew a decent amount of history going into this book that I wasn't going to like her. A character who DID surprise me was Margaret Douglas, niece to Henry VIII. I loved her. I thought she was strong in a silent but deadly way. She didn't have to be boisterous to command the room, she just did. Complete old school royalty and she was an incredible character to meet because I didn't know a lot about her going into this.

Last note: I was pleasantly grinning like an idiot at references to Tarnish and what happened in that book. Basically everything that had to do with Thomas Wyatt and Anne Boleyn. It was cleverly weaved into dialogue and scenes and I just freakin' loved it. Personal favorites: Thomas going still when Mary joked about teaching her flirtationg and when Anne asks Thomas to dance to piss off Henry. AMAZING.

The Plot

Obviously, I was intrigued to get an in-depth look at the bastard son of Henry VIII because not a lot is written about him in all the Tudor books I've read except in passing. I think the idea to write about this tumultuous time in Anne and Henry's court from this inside yet outside perspective was brilliant. We see what's going on and how it all unfolds like it does and there 's nothing you can do to stop it. It was absolutely heartbreaking to read about how horribly Anne was treated and even though I know how it ends, I"m still wishing along with the characters that Anne gives birth to a son. Le sigh.

The Message

Not to go all Anne Boleyn crazy but one of the main reasons I love her is that she paved the way for independent thinking females. She is the creator of playing hard to get. She owned Henry for so long and she helped give women a voice and realize that they matter. We are not just pawns on a chessboard to be lorded over by our husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, kings. She showed us that woman can be smart and articulate and make their way in a man's world. She gives this gift to Mary and watching her realize that she is a person of importance was beautiful.

The History

Yeah, can't fault the book for how it all turns out in the end but it doesn't mean I have to like it...sorry not sorry.

Reserved Seating
If you love historical fiction, if you're looking to get into historical fiction, if you're just plain looking for a good book to read. Read Brazen. And read all other books by Katherine Longshore if you're looking for a fantastically written and character driven historical fiction. 

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