“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.”
Thoughts: Gilt will be very familiar to fans of Philippa Gregory. The subject matter is what brought Ms. Gregory her fame, and even Katherine Longshore’s writing style is eerily similar. However, Gilt is not just another copycat novel geared towards young adults. There is a brash, in-your-face quality to the entire story that accentuates just how dangerous this era was for anyone caught up in the machinations of the Tudor court. Ms. Longshore does an admirable job of explaining the notoriously complicated politics well enough that even the most ignorant reader will understand the dangers facing Catherine Howard and Kitty.
In spite of the twistings and turnings of the politics involved with Court life, Gilt remains true to the world of young adult fiction by remaining steadfast to the themes that permeate this genre. Kitty must discover the true meaning of friendship as well as determine her own path towards happiness. Cat learns to rue her actions through the ultimate penalty. It is a coming-of-age story with fatal consequences if the lessons are not fully learned.
As in most Tudor fiction, Catherine Howard gets a bad rap, and Gilt is no different. Cat is awful – selfish and vain-glorious. She lives to serve herself, and one does not have to know Tudor history to know in advance that her marriage to King Henry VIII is not going to end well. A reader will not be able to determine whether Kitty’s steadfastness to Cat in spite of everything she is put through on Cat’s behalf is due to her naivete, ignorance, or generous heart. Still, one cannot help but sympathize with this young woman torn between friendship and faithfulness, the glitter and glamour of the Court, and a future filled with the unfamiliar.
Ms. Longshore does an admirable job of taking an unknown historical figure and bringing her life. The fictional aspects Gilt blend seamlessly with the historical portions, rounding out a reader’s mental image of the cast of characters as well as the environs in which they find themselves. The descriptions are robust, allowing readers to easily imagine the scenes, the scents, and the sounds. By using someone who would have had intimate knowledge of the Queen’s comings and goings, more than her ladies-in-waiting ever would, readers get an even more insider view of life as the Queen of England as well as regular life during this era. It is a fabulous behind-the-scenes view of a not-so-fabulous period in history.