Published by Viking Juvenile on May 15th, 2012
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
In the court of King Henry VIII, nothing is free--
and love comes at the highest price of all.
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.
When I decided to try out more historical fiction, the one young adult series that kept getting recommended was Katherine Longshore’s Tudor-inspired books. High ratings all around, and who can resist a good Tudor book? Gilt centers on Catherine Howard’s reign which make my relationship with this book a bit strained, but I did still enjoy it.
See, the thing is, I hate Catherine Howard. Everything I’ve read and heard about her just makes me cringe, and Gilt makes the cringe reaction even more prominent because Gilt‘s main character is Kitty, Cat’s best friend, who consistently gets emotionally abused. Cat is so, pardon me, FUCKED up. The emotional blackmail she dishes out constantly and her self-centered and conceited nature just always fill me with rage. And I felt all of the sympathy for Kitty, because it was so undeserved.
Kitty’s life pretty much sucks all around. Not only does Cat treat her like shit, but her family has ditched her, she has a romantic mishap, and she is a witness and victim of the prominent misogyny of this time period. Although Cat can be a real bitch to her, she’s also the only person who is ever remotely kind to her. So when Cat’s actions and their close secrets-ridden relationship make her feel special and loved, it’s hard to let go of that. Kitty is unwavering in her loyalty, and oftentimes, though this means her actions enable Cat’s crimes, Kitty appears to be the only one with any honor at court.
What I can give tremendous praise is the historical accuracy of Gilt. Longshore certainly did her research, and it shows. It fits with everything I know about the Tudors, and though I’m no history scholar, I do know quite a bit. Henry here is actually old and fat and rather disgusting. Cat’s personality, frustrating as it is, is spot on. She’s a character you love to hate, and I frequently wished I could throw things at her. While Kitty continually permitting the emotional abuse to take place frustrated me immensely, I could also truly understand that with her position, there was little else she could do.
I must say that I’m not the biggest fan of the writing itself. Not to say that it’s bad really, but since I grew up in the US but am now in the Netherlands where I’m surrounded by British English, I noticed quite often that the dialogue was too American-ized. At least, that’s how it felt to me. Phrases, sentence structures… they didn’t sound quite as authentic as I may have expected. It made it difficult when I tried to imagine the dialogue with British accents. Sometimes the flow was just interrupted and I had to let it go to continue on with the book, but it did annoy me a little.
I think I can definitely say that this book is good, but my liking of it is obviously inhibited due to how uncomfortable Catherine Howard always makes me feel. I liked reading this, but I’m not sure I would reread it because just asdfjkl; I feel VERY conflicted. While I definitely respect the amount of research done to make this as historically accurate as possible, it made it hard to endure when there was scarcely a glimmer of hope. Books that get me cheering for them have messages of character growth and strong female characters and such, and Kitty frustrated me in that respect.
HOWEVER, I will say that the ending redeemed A LOT for me. While I did also wish that there would be more chemistry-laden beautiful romance (for Kitty) and I was lacking some feels, I liked the way it ended. The character growth, while minor, was there. So in the end, yes, I liked this book quite a bit, and I think it bodes well for my future experiences with Longshore’s work. If she made me like such an infuriating story about Catherine Howard, I think it can only go up from here.