Rummanah Aasi
  There has been a slew of gossipy historical fiction YA reads. I've seen this wave come and go, but I think with the popularity of Downton Abbey (is it January yet?), there seems to be a more of a demand. Gossipy historical fiction is a guilty pleasure of mine and which is why I picked up the aptly titled Gilt by Katherine Longshore.

Description (from Goodreads): When Kitty Tylney's best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII's heart and brings Kitty to court, she's thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat's shadow, Kitty's now caught between two men--the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat's meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Review: Gilt recounts the short life and times of King Henry VIII's fifth and youngest wife, Catherine Howard, as seen through the eyes of her best friend Kitty. When Cat is selected to be one of Anne of Cleves' ladies-in-waiting, she soon catches the king's eye, and soon to be the next chosen wife of the King. Cat rescues her plain friend Kitty, more as an effort to retain her self confidence and have someone loyal to her in a threatening environment, to attend her in her chambers.
  Although the book tries to give the reader the wide scope of the royal court, only Cat and Kitty are fully realized characters, which is kind of a shame since I really didn't care for either one of them. Cat Howard has always acted as if she was queen. She was the queen bee and the self declared connoisseur of all womanly desires (wink wink nudge nudge). She even liked to call herself the Queen of Misrule in the Duchess of Norfolk's maidens' chamber (a rather tongue in check nickname) to make her status more official. I couldn't find any redeemable qualities in Cat at all. She's usually depicted as a naive young girl who was carried away by her..er...hormones and emotions, but in Gilt she clearly knew what she was doing and enjoyed the rush of excitement in doing something forbidden and trying to see if she couldn't get caught. Anyone with a brain cell would know the path she chose is incredibly stupid and could only lead to death and humiliation.
  We also get a close-up examination of Cat's personality through Kitty's unique position of attending her best friend. Kitty's identity is solely based on her connection to Cat as she has no royal connection ties to the court. She relies on Cat's favoritism in order to push away her self doubts and low self confidence. I liked Kitty best when she clearly admits her own short comings and catches the so-called indestructible Cat's flaws. It is a shame though that most of these little nuggets of truth are buried in mumbles and under the breath.
  It also is through Kitty's eyes that we get a broad scope of the royal court, however, the author seems to focus on the safe, domestic setting of the court rather than the affairs and politics that shaped the Tudor time period. Unfortunately, the time period doesn't really come to life with these broad strokes. The suspense of Cat's plan and what lead to her demise is extremely subdued. I think I had an edge on reading Gilt as I already knew of Catherine Howard's demise and stupidity by watching The Tudors (Jonathan Rhys Meyers plus Henry Cavill equals a win!), but I as a reader reading Gilt, I didn't get that surprise or suspense. As a result, Gilt doesn't have much of a punch as a gossipy historical fiction or romance read as the cover implies (The cover of Gilt does absolutely nothing for me and I wish I wouldn't have to look up the model's nostrils everytime I see it). Readers looking for more juicy details of the Tudor time period are better off looking at some of Phillippa Gregory's books and other readalikes. Do give the book a chance if you're curious about the status of women in the Tudor period.
 
Rating: 3 stars


Words of Caution: Sexual and crude humor, strong sexuality that is regulated off the page. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby, Luxe series by Anna Godbersen, The Other Boylen by Philippa Gregory, The Unfaithful Queen by Carolly Erickson, and Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan
7 Responses
  1. I have a weakness for gossipy historical fiction too. Definitely brings history to life. I have this book but still haven't gotten to it. Even if the characters weren't all that likable, it's interesting to get a different take on Cat than how she is often portrayed.


  2. Jenny Says:

    "Anyone with a brain cell would know the path she chose is incredibly stupid and could only lead to death and humiliation."

    This was my main issue with this one as well Rummanah! I couldn't understand how she could look at all the women that came before her and think she could get away with anything, or that she could somehow avoid Anne's fate when engaging in the same behaviors that led to Anne's beheading. I wanted to shake her! Grrrr. Prideful, arrogant girl. I really want to watch The Tudors though - I think that would be a good show for me:)


  3. Annette Says:

    I agree about the cover. It is strange. I've been interested in this book, but on the fence. (sucker for historical fiction.) I've a few more Phillipa Gregory books I want to read, so I may wait on this one. Thanks for your thoughts.


  4. Hm... don't think this one is for me. I have to LOL at your description of the cover! Just don't look at the nostrils... don't look! LOL


  5. Candace Says:

    Yikes unlikable characters isn't good. I keep eying this one but it seems like the reviews I have seen are lukewarm so maybe I will skip it and just read one of the other HF books I have that are dying to be read. Thanks for the review!


  6. I wasn't really interested in this one to begin with since I'm not really a fan of gossipy books. I do like historical fiction though but since you mentioned that the time period never really came alive for you, I'll be skipping this one. Thanks for the review, Rummanah!


  7. Ha ha I agree the model has some dark caves in those nostrils, I think I will pass and read Gregory or George if I want HenryVIII. Oh wait, I did read George's account a thick monster but read it I did!


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