Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: Brazen by Katherine Longshore

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 with 5 comments
Title: Brazen
Author: Katherine Longshore
Series: Untitled, book #3
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: June 12, 2014
Source: received from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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?

I don't know as much about the Tudor dynasty as I probably should, given that it's one of my favorite historical periods to read about, but Katherine Longshore excels at bringing that period to life in a way that is romantic -- poetic, even -- and not at all overbearing. It doesn't feel like a history lesson, but I learned a few things all the same, and I appreciate the author's note at the end detailing what liberties she took with the story and how they compare to what is known of that time period.

And I have to say that Brazen is now my favorite of her novels. I read an excerpt, and even from that brief bit of the story, I knew that I would end up preferring this novel over the rest in the series, though I also have to attest that it made me want to pick up the others again for a re-read. There was just something about this main character that I felt the others had been lacking. Maybe it's the fact that she bucked society's norms in a time when women had few rights and were little more than pawns. Maybe it's because she fought for love when she was told she could not have it. But I honesty just think I liked Mary's fire, her spirit and willingness to be good and honorable, even if those around her were not.

I really love how the focus of these books is always on one of the lady's maids to King Henry VIII's flavor of the moment. His breaking ties with Rome irrevocably changed the course of history, but the same could be said of the women's lives he touched as a result of that split. Gilt followed young Catherine Howard's rise to the queenship and her demise. (She was wife #5.) Tarnish followed a beguiling Anne Boleyn's rise to power. (For this book, the author took us back to Henry's second wife.) Brazen picks up at the end of young Anne's reign and her fall from grace, but it also depicted a friendship between Anne and her cousin and lady's maid Mary Howard and the heroine of our story.

When we first meet Mary, she is fourteen and about to marry Henry FitzRoy, King Henry VIII's illegitimate son, also only fourteen. And then the two are kept apart and not allowed to consummate the marriage for fear that it would bring illness to young FitzRoy if he was not mature enough when the deed was done. This meant that poor Mary's situation was always in flux, never knowing whether the King had other plans for his only son and planned to annul the marriage in favor of better partnerships.

That part is all true. Where Longshore deviates from the script is the actual relationship that develops between Mary and Fitz. Obviously, Mary had little power to control her future, but she did endeavor to love the man she was essentially forced to marry. With the help of her brother -- Fitz's best friend and boyhood companion -- and Mary's own friends Madge and Margaret, Mary and Fitz were able to spend a little time together and get to know one another, forming a bond despite the King's wishes. I loved how their awkward first encounters paved the way for some unbelievably swoony moments later on in the book.

And though I did know how their story would end, I was glad for those moments of happiness for them, especially considering how meddlesome both of their families were. As I said before, women were just used as pawns to strengthen alliances and in other business dealings, but the same can be said of illegitimate sons. Mary never had a hope of pleasing her mother, but her marriage to Fitz was everything her father could have dreamed of considering his aspirations to make Mary a queen. Or it could have been, had Mary done as he'd asked and gone against the King's wishes. But none of that compares to the demands the King made on young FitzRoy. Fitz wanted a father, but the King never deigned to be such to his only son. All the boy wanted to do was escape all of the court intrigue and be allowed to love his wife, but Henry VIII never saw fit to grant him that wish. Without the love of their parents that they so desired, Mary and Fitz took comfort in each other.

That's when things got interesting and quite delicious...until they took a turn toward heart-breaking. History -- or should I say the King -- wasn't particularly kind to any of Henry VIII's wives, nor to any of their lady's maids, and Mary is no exception. Nor were her friends. But Mary was quite a strong girl, and through it all -- family squabbles, Kingly dictates, and royal beheadings -- she held by her convictions and remained the good-hearted girl she'd always strived to be. The story Katherine Longshore presented here may be mostly fictitious, but I choose to believe that some good came from Henry's blasphemy, even if history is a cruel mistress. And because of that, Brazen will remain my favorite novel in this series...well, at least until the next book she writes.

GIF it to me straight:

Yep. Pretty much. But also...

About the Author:

I've always been a writer. I've been writing stories since I learned how to hold a pencil, asking my dad how to spell words while I worked under the bar stools at our kitchen counter.

In the course of my life, I've worked as a dishwasher, lingerie seller, coffee barista, cake decorator, ship's steward, video rental clerk, freelance journalist, travel agent, waitress, contracts manager, bookseller and Montessori preschool teacher.

But in writing for teens, I've finally found my calling.

And through writing, I am able to encompass all my loves. Becoming a character made of words. Exploring new worlds. And living history.

Find Katherine:

Website | BlogTwitter | FacebookGoodreads


  1. I wasn't aware of this series, but it sounds like all sorts of deliciousness. Exciting time period in history. Look forward to reading this one. Nice review!

    1. The whole series is rather delicious with all of the court intrigue and Henry VIII and those six wives of his, but this one is by far my favorite. And each follows a different heroine, so you don't have to read them in order. :)


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