I’ve read a lot of books that take place in King HenryVIII’s court, and almost none of them have been about Catherine Howard. There is a reason for this. Young adult books focus on the Henry’s children. Romances and historical fiction tend to focus on his adult relationships: his marriages and mistresses. No one knows what to do with the king’s child bride, Catherine Howard. Their obviously sexual relationship seems too adult for young readers and to creepy to be titillating. For these reasons I was surprised when Katherine Longshore embraced this under written queen in her YA novel “Gilt”.
Howard’s plain best friend Kitty Tylney (was everyone in the court named Catherine or Katherine?) narrates this story. From their scandalous behavior in the home of Howard’s aunt to playing adults in the King’s courtKitty is perpetually in her friend’s shadow. Kitty is instantly set up as a sympathetic character, but her vacillation between friendly devotion and jealous disapproval get old quickly. No one likes a goodie goodie.
Where Longshore succeeds, or at least achieves the unthinkable, is that she populates the novel with several amorous encounters even more creepy than that of the smelly old king and tween Catherine Howard.Culpepper, a character from history I have always imagined as genial, stands out as particularly sadistic and controlling.
The book wasn’t bad. It was a pretty good Tudor novel.However, it seemed to prove the reason this story isn’t often portrayed. Howard is not a relatable character. Kitty is too righteous to be interesting. With a known ending (divorced, beheaded, she died, divorced, beheaded, survived) there is a high amount of unpleasantness accompanied by little to no tension.
If you are a diehard Tudor fan, go ahead and try it. Otherwise you can probably give this one a miss.
***I am out-of-town, in Boston for a bridal shower, but will add some links when I get back. Hope everyone is having a great weekend and thanks for reading!