25. July 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Historical Fiction, Romance, Teen Books

Gilt by Katherine Longshore, 406 pages, read by Courtney, on 07/11/2012

This officially marks the second novel about Catherine Howard that I’ve read in the past couple of years. It’s easy to see why she would make a great YA character. She’s young; a mere teenager when she marries the aging Henry VIII. She’s tragic; if one knows her story, one knows it does not end well. She’s the queen of one of the most notorious kings in English history and yet, still one of the least well-known. Catherine was quite literally plucked from near-obscurity and placed in court, where she was then noticed by Henry who was disenchanted with his then-wife, Anne of Cleves. That marriage gets annulled and Henry marries the youthful Catherine who ultimately fails to produce an heir and is accused of adultery. Her fate is the same as her late cousin, Anne Boleyn.
This particular novel is not from Catherine’s perspective. Instead, it is from that of her best friend, Kitty Tylney. Kitty is a nobody. Her parents sent her off to live with the duchess and have little to do with her. Kitty is taken under Catherine’s (Cat’s) wing early on. Cat is presented as a girl who knows how to use people to get what she wants, regardless of the consequences. She is not the most sympathetic character, but it is easy to see how those around her can become caught up in Cat’s schemes and charisma. When Kitty finally joins Cat at court, she quickly realizes that her life has never really been her own. Cat becomes increasingly demanding, both emotionally and physically, leaving her friends toiling away in the wake of her secrets. When the final curtain falls, Kitty can do nothing to help her former friend.
I really enjoyed this one. It was more than just a historical novel. Cat comes across as a classic spoiled brat/mean girl who is capable of making just about anyone bend to her will. Kitty is the type of friend who will do anything for her friend, even when it means denying herself the things she wants. Kitty winds up sacrificing nearly everything for the sake of her friendship with Cat and only realizes very late that her life has never been her own. It was fascinating to hear the story told from a friend’s point of view rather than from Catherine’s. It was also interesting to see age-old dramas played out in a royal setting where lives really were at stake.

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