I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Brazen by Katherine Longshore
Published by Penguin on 2014-06-12
Genres: Europe, Historical, Love & Romance, Royalty, Young Adult
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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?
Are you into stories of love, gossip and intrigue set against a real life historical backdrop? Before Reign made history sexy and cool for youths, there was Katherine Longshore and her books set during the reign of the Tudors. First Gilt, then Tarnish and now BRAZEN. Now, looking at just the title: Brazen, you might think that this is one of those seedy books that’s nothing but sex and flirtation and YOU WOULD BE WRONG. My friends, this book further cements my membership in the Katherine Longshore fan club. You see, history is brought to life in a dramatic, relatable way within this book that follows Mary Howard who is married off at the age of fourteen to King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. And before you get all, ew child marriage on me, note the time period the book is set in and that it totally does not get gross. I promise. Before we go any further, I think you need to know that I am in love with this book and with this “series” if you can call it that, and with the story and the themes.
So, I gave you a peek at the plot above, but to go a tiny bit deeper, so the book starts off with Mary Howard marrying Henry Fitzroy. She’s nervous because she barely remembers him. They played together as kids and he is best friends with her brother, but Mary has not interacted with Fitz (what Henry calls himself) in recent years. After vows are said, they go to leave right, and Mary’s mother who is a total douchebag tries to proceed in front of Mary but then Fitz is like, hey lady that’s not cool, you are not as important in eminence as I am, and so Mary gets to go in front of her mother and she remembers that, how Fitz treated her really well, it’s something that makes an impression on her.
Anyways, we then flash forward to a little bit later and Mary is one of Queen Anne Boleyn’s ladies and so she gets to hang out at court. She is given a blank journal from Fitz, for her words, and so begins passing the journal back and forth with her friends Lady Margaret and Madge. This is important. As the story goes on, Mary begins to fall in love, with her husband. BUT they are ordered to not have sex because King Henry VIII believes that if his son has sex too young, he will die. Regardless, Mary and Fitz are resistant to that order, and well, if you like romance and intrigue you’ll love this. MEANWHILE, the timeline of the plot coordinates with the timeline of Anne Boleyn being in power and then Anne Boleyn’s fall from grace and ugh, there’s all kinds of action and emotions and basically to sum it up, I am in love with the plot of Brazen.
I think a lot of people get the impression that women in history, especially in King Henry VIII’s court must be meek. I want to put that to rest. Mary Fitzroy is anything but meek. I mean, she’s not leading any charges or battles, she’s not a revolutionary or anything. However, she’s a character who knows her own mind and I like that. Mary is someone who loves words, she loves poetry and while she is not at all a writer, she has an appreciation for the art of writing. Mary is very devoted to her friends as well, which you’ll see later.
Further, Brazen does this excellent job with character development. We see Mary who is raised by this mother who is verbally abusive go from not having faith in herself, to taking what is hers without compunction and believing that she deserves what is hers. She really changes gradually throughout the book and in such a believable fashion. I think another thing that you all might like about Mary is that even though she’s a historical character and lives at court, she is someone I think we can all relate to. She’s not over the top at all, she feels like a normal girl and I think that these things like worry over whether you look right and what other people think of you transcend time.
You might be reading this and wanting me to get to the point about the kissing and the romance. Yes, I can confirm that it is worth all the hearts. I can confirm that Fitz and Mary have chemistry. The romance is this weird blend of forbidden and arranged and it works perfectly. There’s clandestine meetings. There’s sacrifice. There’s real thought behind Fitz and Mary’s actions toward each other. We see this development between them even though Longshore could easily have fallen into the instalove trap. She doesn’t. Rather, over time, Mary decides she does love Fitz after first deciding that she is attracted to him. AND YOU GUYS, they are so honest with each other. I love it. Like, look this is a book that shows relationship values such as honesty, consideration and respect despite being a historical fiction book. LOVE THAT. I think maybe we have this view of the past and relationships where it was all about duty and obeying your spouse, but people are people and time and place doesn’t change that and I love that Longshore shows this in her books. THANK YOU for making history accessible!
Beyond the romance, Brazen is an excellent look at friendship within the court. The book starts off with Mary being best friends with Madge who is not quite nobility. Madge is one of the girls who lives at court. Anyways, Madge is having an affair with Mary’s married brother which kind of irritates Mary, but whatever. AND THEN Madge breaks her brother’s heart and Mary is like super irritated and can you blame her. Alas, the friendship still stands. The duo is then made a trio when Lady Margaret comes to court. Lady Margaret is proper and reserved and from Scotland. I forget how she’s related to the King. But yeah, she becomes best friends with Mary and Madge and the three get up to some romantic rebellion and ugh, it’s great. I love that the friendship portrayed feels like a real teen friendship, in that there are secrets and drama and fights, but at the end of the day, they all have each other’s backs. Also, seeing how they communicate by passing Mary’s journal back and forth is kind of really fantastic.
Katherine Longshore has a real eye for detail and history. She crafts quite the intricate plot in Brazen. What I love is the theme of patriarchy and female agency. When we start the book, Mary does not have much agency for herself. Nor do her friends Madge and Lady Margaret. Yet, as the book goes on, each girl begins to craft her own path. And while the book ends, yes Henry VIII is still king and patriarchy still stands, however, Mary manages to carve out her own dreams and go for them. She finds her voice. She finds her agency. I love this and how it manages to bring a feel of the contemporary within the constructs of history. The plotting and the pacing for this development and change is well done. Brazen by Katherine Longshore has all the world to offer it’s readers and I cannot recommend it, as well as Longshore’s other books highly enough.