Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bookanistas: TARNISH by Katherine Longshore

DISCLAIMER: Katherine Longshore and I share an amazing editor at Viking. Since both our debut novels pubbed, I've had the opportunity to hang out with Katy in person. She is incredibly sweet and beyond smart. Naturally, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read an arc of her next book. But I was again nervous about my response to the novel. My worries were for naught.  I read GILT in one sitting and did the same with TARNISH. Without further ado, herewith some thoughts on another gorgeous book.

Plot without spoilers...Anne Boleyn cannot hold her tongue, cannot follow the courtly crowd and be content with the best marriage match her father can make to benefit the family, cannot be simply a female pawn in a man's chess game. Instead, in search of real power and recognition, she finds herself in a complicated love quadrangle. Anne is deeply drawn to two men: one who offers to make her the star of the Tudor court; and the other who is England's king and her older sister's lover.

Of literary interest...I was first surprised to see that this novel does not pick up where GILT left Kitty but is actually set further back in time. TARNISH begins just before the start of the romance between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Henry is is still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.  That said, fans of GILT will be thrilled to return to Tudor England. And the language--the poetry and wordplay of courtly romance and power politics--honestly makes you want to read aloud, letting rich phrases shimmer on your lips like the jewels described in the novel. TARNISH, the title, is a metaphor that works on so many levels--from Anne's evolving perception of courtly life to her courtiers' perceptions of Anne herself.

Finally, just gotta say...My reading preferences tend toward the contemporary but Katy has this magical way of making girls from history come alive for present-day readers while getting them totally hooked on worlds of the past. TARNISH makes the workings of the Tudor court feel not unlike the dynamics of an elite boarding school. The characters, despite their gowns and hoods, are beauties and plain girls, the empowered and the victimized, the hopeful and the hopeless...richly drawn, real people. I would be unsurprised if readers found themselve longing to read a thick, nonfiction history of England after spending 400 pages with Longshore's Anne Boleyn--if only to prepare for the next breathless journey to the past Katherine Longshore will surely take us.

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