Borrowed from Karen at For What It's Worth
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.
Gilt is not one of those novels where the pages practically turn themselves, our intense desire to reach the end physically expressed through the rapid devouring of chapters; instead we carry a burden from the very beginning, our preexisting knowledge of Catherine Howard’s fate slowing our progression to an almost crawl as we dread the flip of the page for how much closer it brings us to her brutal demise. Because the pace is a bit slow—Kitty’s arrival in the queen’s court not even taking place until almost a third of the way through—it takes our interest and curiosity a bit longer to be piqued, our attention waxing and waning repeatedly as sumptuous details of fabric, jewelry, and other various descriptions weigh us down before the intrigue, betrayal, and sinister nature of the Tudor Court grabs our focus back and holds it unwavering.
Kitty is a beautifully depicted character, loyal to a fault to those who don’t always deserve such unwavering devotion, and someone who grows from a timid girl scared to share her opinion to a surprisingly strong young woman who finds her voice even though it often falls of deaf ears. Her confusion and hesitancy when she’s thrust into life at court settles heavily in our guts as soon as she sets foot there, our instincts crying out at us to shield her from Cat’s manipulations as we know they are only going to grow more devious and have far more dire consequences the more time she spends in the queen’s employ. Though it takes her a while, Kitty finally learns to stand her ground, years of daily lessons on how to recognize the cruel twist of lips hidden behind beatific smiles and how to see ugliness hidden beneath the shine of wealth and privilege ensuring she cuts her strings for good, free of the puppeteers with whom she’s spent her entire life.
Cat is both terrible and benevolent, her selfishness unparalleled and often appalling, but there are rare moments when her love for Kitty seems to be genuine, giving us a brief glimpse at the toll life as queen takes on her. Those moments are few and far between however, and we spend a great deal of time wanting to scream at the top of our lungs, hoping our voices will breach the fictional barrier and make her see that the bed she’s making for herself will soon be stained with the blood of those whose lives she so callously plays with day in and day out. She thinks only of herself up until the very moment she presents her neck for the executioner’s axe, and we can do nothing but shake our heads in dismay that she didn’t open her eyes and learn from the mistakes made by the women married to Henry before her, instead allowing her youthful sense of invincibility to obscure what history was so clearly trying to show her.
Overall, Gilt is a fascinating read for no other reason than the glimpse of Tudor history it gives us, though we easily close the back cover thankful to be in our reality with our heads blissfully attached to our bodies. Those who adore historical fiction for the atmosphere and the minute, intimate details of day-to-day life will revel in the pictures Ms. Longshore beautifully paints, though those readers who have a more superficial appreciation for it may at times begin to feel the full length of the 400 pages and wish Cat’s rise and fall as Queen Catherine might have been depicted at a quicker pace.