Tarnish by Katherine Longshore

Returning from exile in France after a public embarrassment, Anne Boleyn is determined to make a place for herself in King Henry VIII’s court. The trouble is, everyone – including her own family – seems to have turned against her. Alone and friendless, Anne is pursued by the seductive court poet, Thomas Wyatt, who offers to help her become the most sought-after lady at court. But Anne gets more attention than she bargained for, and soon she finds herself caught between the choice of love and power.

Ok, so I admit, I’m completely biased when it comes to Tudor historical fiction. I find the court of Henry VIII completely fascinating. I mean, the man found a way to get rid of 5 wives (the 6th just happened to outlive him), and no one was able to stop him. In the 16th century, that was a big deal. Not only is Tarnish a Tudor novel, it’s an Anne Boleyn novel, my favorite of his wives. Anne is the first woman Henry VIII threw a wife over for, and, because of her relationship with the king, politics and religion changed in England forever. Henry created an entirely new religious denomination (Church of England) just so he could marry this girl. Then he chopped off her head. Crazy!

As juicy as Anne’s rise and downfall is, Longshore’s novel focuses only on her life before and just at the start of her relationship with Henry VIII. Readers see an awkward teenager trying to make it in a world turned against her. She’s bullied, ignored, and regarded as a huge failure by her family. A very interesting portrayal of Anne, who is often demonized by history as being a witch and a shameless adulteress.

As much as I liked this novel — it’s really not a boring history story at all! — I felt the “real” Anne was probably more in charge of her fate than this novel allowed. I think she came back from the French court elegant, witty, and ready to make a name for herself. I don’t think she went after Henry from the start, but I do think she encouraged him once she realized that she could be queen. Can you blame her? In any case, the price of her ambition was death. Pick this one up and give it a read! Even if you “don’t like” historical fiction — Tarnish may surprise you!

Rating: 4/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

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