Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review: Gilt by Katherine Longshore

by Katherine Longshore
Viking Juvenile
May 15, 2012
398 pages
Source: NetGalley

     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.(Taken from Goodreads.)

Opening Line

You're not going to steal anything. 

My Take On It
  I'm a history buff and always have been so I like some historical fiction. But sometimes reading it can be challenging. I love reading some parts,usually the romance (big surpise:), but I have to admit that I can get easily bored  during other parts, for instance battle strategy and some battle scenes in general are not my thing. So I was both looking forward to reading Gilt and also a bit wary. Luckily, Gilt is the type historical fiction I love, there is both romance as well as great character exploration. And for the young adult (or adult) that might be hesitant to tackle a book that deals with the historical time period of Tudor England and King Henry VIII, I say fear not! This book reads like your favorite boarding school drama, complete with mean, manipulative girls; backstabbing  traitors; ruthless gossip; and some pretty racy love scenes. In Katherine Longshore's story, the time frame may not be modern, but the ensuing drama mirrors any of the CW or ABC Family teen shows so popular today. Times change, but people stay the same. 
    The narrator of Gilt is Kitty, the first lieutenant to the queen bee of the maids in waiting, Cat Howard.  There seems to be no middle of the road when it comes to these two girls. Kitty bows down and acquiesces to Cat's every demand, as all the girls of Norfolk House do if they know what's good for them. And Cat is as cruel, manipulative, petty, and bitchy as they come. She is the Queen of Misrule, and woe to anyone who crosses her (as poor Mary Lascelles discovers.) Kitty is both Cat's accomplice and confidant, and she is blindingly loyal. Cat cares for Kitty, but first and foremost she cares about herself, and will use and abuse anyone to get what she desires most: a way out of  Norfolk House and a position in King Henry VIII's court. 
      I had heard of Catherine Howard before reading this book, I knew she was one of Henry's many wives, but any other details I might have learned in World History class were forgotten. That's not to say that I didn't feel pretty confident in assuming what her ultimate fate would be. She married King Henry VIII after all. How many of those ex wives had a "happy ending?" So with that knowledge in hand, I was curious to witness the build up to that final end, which I knew would probably be a violent one. And the journey that Cat and Kitty take from poor maid servants in the Duchess of Norfolk's home to the opulent court of the King of England kept me on the edge of my seat. I knew it wasn't going to end well for Cat, or possibly for Kitty either, but Longshore did a great job at enticing me and keeping me from turning away, even though I knew I was watching a train wreck about to occur.
       As far as characters go, I sympathized with Kitty, to a degree. Abandoned at the Duchess's home as a child, Kitty's only loyalty lies with Cat, the girl who befriended her when she had no one. The reality is, all the girls at Norfolk House are cast offs. Some are unwanted and abandoned daughters, like Cat and Kitty, other's, like Alice and Joan,  are widowed or deserted wives whose husbands have either died or want nothing to do with them. All the girls have is each other, so it's no surprise that a hierarchy sets up, with Cat as the leader. All her underling's owe everything to her, because without Cat's good graces they would be shunned within the house and have even less of an existence than they have now. What I had a hard time with was the fact that even when it is blatantly clear to everyone including herself, that Cat is using her, Kitty never wavered in her loyalty. Maybe that is honorable in a way, sticking by a friend through the worst of times and all, but in this case, it made Kitty seem very weak and really stymied any chance for her character to grow and develop. I would have enjoyed seeing Kitty assert herself more in this book.
    Cat is intriguing as a character. Her ambition is her undoing, but it is hard for me to hate her altogether. She, like everyone else, is a pawn in a much bigger game. And though she uses people in the worst way to get what she wants, that really makes her no different than any of the other major players in this book. One thing I kept asking myself was why would any girl want to marry King Henry who, by this point, was not only unattractive (he's old, fat and stinky according to everyone in the book) but has already dispatched four wives by the time Cat meets him. Is it greed? Is it ambition? Is it ignorance? I think the simple answer is that Cat, always looking for a fatter fish to fry, simply couldn't resist the temptation to have it all. The clothes, the riches, the status, the power. Even though Cat knew it wouldn't last, especially considering some of the things she did while she was married, the desire to be crowned Queen and become the most powerful woman in England won out in the end. In many ways the figure of Cat is  tragic. And though I might not like her much, I can't hate her either. 
      There are two love interests for Kitty in Gilt, though it is not a love triangle.William, under the employ of the Duke of Norfolk, is kind and not caught up in the political intrigue at Court. Edmund is just the opposite. He's very well connected at Court but is cunning and ruthless. It was clear to me who Kitty should be with, but I have to say I did enjoy the steamy interactions she had with both of them, though I would have liked to see them more fleshed out character wise. If I had more insight into both the love interests I think I would have cared more about the outcome. As it was, the romance took a backseat to the relationship between Kitty and Cat (and that was fine.)
     The setting, 1500's Tudor England, was awesome to read about. I loved the descriptions of daily life as well as the life at the palace. In fact, my favorite thing about Gilt is it has spurred my interest in that time period and in King Henry VIII and his six wives all over again. Katherine Longshore leaves some information in her notes at the end of the book, regarding the true history of Catherine Howard and Katherine Tylney.  But after finishing Gilt, I immediately went toWikipedia and began checking out all the characters and places mentioned in the book (here's a link to an entry on  the six wives of Henry VIII and looking at the historical record really added a whole new layer to Gilt.  If you are interested in that sort of thing you might want to check it out, that's the cool thing about reading historical fiction, being able to go and cross check with what events really occurred and what people really existed.
    Overall, I enjoyed, but wasn't blown away, by Gilt. I do, however, think it's great to see a book with this subject matter being marketed to young adults. Maybe it will provoke other interests in history as a result. I know it definitely had me wanting to explore further into the sordid affairs of this period of history. I understand that while there will be no sequel to Gilt (it doesn't need one by the way, it ends pretty well in my opinion)  but that Longshore is planning to write two companion novels set during the same period. I will be checking those out for sure:)

4/5 Stars

Cover Thoughts
   Again, clearly marketed for young adults, and done pretty effectively I think. I kind of like it:)

Check out Katherine Longshore's website here.

Check out what some other reviewers had to say about Gilt:
Good Books and Good Wine
Girls in the Stacks
Once Upon a Prologue

Hey! Did you know I have not one, 
but TWO giveaways going on right now?? 
Check them out:

Click here to shoot to my Giveaway page and enter!                           




  1. Oh yay! Ive been wondering about this one! Its too bad it didn't blow you away but since you did like it that's great news! This will fit my Tudor challenge (of which I haven't read ANY books for yet this year!). I agree that its great they are getting more HF out there for YA to hopefully get them more interested in history.

    1. Definitely will fit that challenge. Honestly it read like a girl's boarding school book for the most part, but I like those kind of books! And the emphasis is on the friendship between Kitty and Cat, not romance. This I liked too:) I will definitely be checking out more by this author!


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