First off: no matter what the cover might look like, this is not a paranormal romance. There are no fairies, no werewolves, no vampires.
There is, however, a lot about one of my favorite periods of history: the Tudors. There’s something deliciously decadent about King Henry VIII and his wives, as well as the power plays and politics surrounding his marriages. I would never have thought it would have made a good teen book, but I’m happy to have been wrong.
Rather than tackling the obvious (Anne Boleyn), Longshore rather turns to Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s sixth wife, for her story. However, instead of making Catherine (or Cat, to her friends) the center of the story, Longshore wisely chooses to make a friend of Catherine’s, Kitty Tylney, our eyes. In many ways, Kitty is quite the innocent bystander, near to the power, bathed in its gifts, and yet somehow manages not to get swept away in it. This way, as readers we get to see the corruption and the politics from the outside, making all the politics easier to stomach.
In many ways, this is Philippa Gregory-light. And I say that with great affection. I love Gregory’s Tudor books for their sweeping dramatizations of history, and Longshore does much of the same thing here. There are sweeping vistas, beautiful dresses, corrupt men and women using girls as pawns in their elaborate games. (And all the sex was off-screen.) I also enjoyed that this was a side of Henry VIII that we don’t often get to see. Many stories have been written about his earlier wives, but I knew next to nothing about Catherine Howard. Granted, it’s fiction, not history, but I felt that Longshore did her research and did an admirable job weaving the history into the story.
It was captivating, engaging, and all those other words people use to gush over books. I’m looking forward to the next book that Longshore writes.
Rated: Moderate. The Tudors were not nice people, and as such, there is quite a bit sex (all of it off-screen) and many adult situations. The ribald language is kept to a minimum, however.