Friday, May 18, 2012


Gilt by Katherine Longshore
4/5 stars
Viking, 2012
404 pages
YA Historical Fiction

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I originally passed over this novel, not realizing that it was YA historical fiction (see Cover below) but after seeing more information, I decided to give it a try. After all, I adore the Tudor period in which this takes place. But I did have my reservations as I prefer stories about Henry VIII's second wife Anne rather than his fifth wife Catherine Howard, who is the focus of this novel.

Well it is actually narrated from the perspective of Catherine's best friend Kitty, starting when both girls are young teenagers living as basically forgotten wards while their families may or may not make them advantageous matches. Kitty is shy, cautious, and loyal; she supports the sparkling Catherine through all of her daring-from inviting boys into their sleeping chambers to stealing and lying for her. Thus once Catherine achieves her goal of a crown, Kitty and their peers are brought to court with all of the glitz and gilt before her downfall.

As an exciting character who does things, Catherine is fascinating to read about. Kitty is more retiring, which at first I enjoyed but too soon my modern sensibilities bristled against Tudor codes of conduct and made me want to reach in and manipulate scenes to be more my taste. Especially frustrating was her infatuation with a young man who hangs with Thomas Culpeper, a rapist and the man with whom Catherine dallies. The writing wanted to take me away while Kitty lusted but the man was so despicable that I just grew disgusted. The frustration also grew as Kitty stayed away from a man she might truly love and who loved her in return. That was probably my least favorite aspect.

I did really like the presentation of Henry VIII. At this point, he is about fifty but still thinks he is the young hot stuff he once was. He is willing to turn a bit of a blind eye to his young wife's youthful exuberance but will not tolerate infidelity or anything that makes it seem like he was played for a fool. We only see a little bit of him but I enjoyed those bits.

I also liked brushing up a little on my history. This is definitely not a dry history book so don't worry that it is a litany of facts but it did help me put events in order and leave me craving some more historical fiction! Any recommendations for (ideally YA but adult is okay) reads about this period?

Overall: An enthralling read (I read the first half really fast) that captures the debauchery and manipulations of Henry VIII's court and the perilous position of women at the time.

Cover: I actually originally thought this was erotica and passed over it before reading about it on goodreads so I do not think that it accurately captures the book's content.


  1. I agree with you about the cover. It doesn't look like YA historical fiction at all!

    Catherine Howard is not one of my favorite characters to read about. Like you, I prefer to read about Anne Boleyn or even Katherine of Aragon. I am glad that this book is told through Kitty Tilney's eyes though. I've read another YA book about Catherine Howard, The King's Rose, which was told from Catherine's POV. It has been too long since I read it to remember how the author portrayed Catherine but I think the angle is that she was forced to play her part by the Howards.

    I am looking forward to picking this up from the library some day. It is hard to read historical fiction sometimes when the protagonist is limited by the times she lives in but I guess that makes it more accurate and hopefully I will like this book too.

  2. I really enjoyed the depiction of the Tudor court in this one, I can't imagine living life in a place like that! Cat drove me a bit crazy with her selfishness, and I just wanted to yell at her LOOK AT WHAT'S HAPPENED TO THE WOMEN BEFORE YOU, but she clearly couldn't hear me ;-) Overall it was definitely fascinating, fabulous review!

  3. Same here! When I first saw this book, I didn't pay attention to at all because the cover didn't really catch my eye and I hadn't heard much about it, but now I couldn't be more intrigued. (Or so I thought before reading your review LOL!) I love how this is narrated by Catherine's cousin Kitty instead because it gives so much more leeway for creativity without changing some huge historical thing -- and I'm kind of in love with her name too! x)

    Amazing and completely convincing review, B! I'd recommend some similar if I could, but this will actually be my first of this genre haha :') But I'll definitely get back to you if I do find anymore cool-sounding historicals! <3

  4. I am enjoying historical YA fiction more and more lately and this one is definitely on my radar now!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  5. I'm glad you like this book. I have it in my TBR pile. I really like historical fiction and I'm excited about reading it.

  6. I loved Gilt too! I thought Catherine was so ridiculous and such a mean girl, but oh, I loved Kitty!

    I'd recommend Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir, it's adult but takes place in this time period. Super good. Also a legit awesome audiobook too.

  7. I almost requested this one on NetGalley and then gave it a miss, kind of regretting that now as I love the tudor period. Good review :)

    Earlier this year I really enjoyed The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau, set in tudor period from the perspective of a Dominican nun.

    The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson was pretty good too ... the least known of Henry's wives, Catherine Parr.


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