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Karen’s Historical Fiction Challenge Update: Tarnish by Katherine Longshore

So, I have now read the 4th out of 5 books in my personal historical fiction challenge.  That book was Tarnish by Katherine Longshore.  So, let’s chat.

We all know I am not awesome at history, that’s the reason for the challenge.  This book is about Anne Boleyn, and even I know who she is.  I loved her in this book because she was the anti-thesis of everything that I struggle with as a historical fiction nonreader: she is strong willed, intelligent, and refuses to be put in the pretty, pretty box that a lot of women are forced to be in.  But she suffers for it in reputation, when we first meet her she has just returned from being sent away for a previous thing.  Longshore creates a strong, admirable female character while remaining authentic to the time period.

Anne is trying to seek the favor of the king in court and she strikes up a deal with the devil, in this case the devil is named Thomas Wyatt.  Everything about their bargain is interesting as they both try to remain true to their character, win, and to up their station in court.  The one thing they can’t do is to allow themselves to fall in love.  That would be bad and put both of their stations in jeopardy.  Plus, Wyatt is already married.  But marriage isn’t much of a deterrent in this time period because almost all the men have mistresses and very few of the people marry for love.  That in itself is a very interesting aspect of this world.

Like The Rose Throne (which is technically fantasy, not historical fiction) and Maid of Honor, there is a lot of action taking place here in court.  And I don’t mean the throw the book at them court, but the we are all part of the king’s (or queen’s) inner circle jockeying for position court.  If you like that type of historical fiction, then you will find this to be an excellent read.

The one thing I really struggled with was the YA aspect of this:  I am not sure that it really has a teen voice.  Anne is supposed to be around 16 in this book, and of course she wouldn’t talk like a modern day teenager, but her voice was really mature and sophisticated.  That’s probably correct for the time period, but I don’t know how well my teen readers would embrace it.  Also, there was a lot of very frank, mature discussion of sex.  For example, Anne’s sister is a mistress to the king and often refers to herself as a whore.  So while I thought it was a really well developed and written story, it didn’t necessarily read as YA to me.

So, things that are done well and I really liked:

The characters are richly developed
The deal with the devil and the plan to catch a king, with all of its emotional complexity
The behind the scenes look at a well known historical character and incident
The thoughtful look at what it means to fall in love and some people are willing to sacrifice that for status
There was a lot of interesting family stuff in here that I didn’t mention

Things I am on the fence about:

To me, it didn’t read “young adult”.  It would work just as well in the adult section and I think find a much bigger audience there.  But then, this type of historical fiction is not as popular with my teens as it is with adult readers.  That’s how it read, to me, an adult book that teen readers of the genre would also love.  But I read a ton of reviews on the title and I am the only one who says this so I must be doing something wrong.  But then, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction (hence the challenge) so I have nothing really to compare it to.

School Library Journal and Kirkus both gave it favorable reviews.  It is well written, engaging, and definitely fills an important collection need.  Add it.  Longshore’s first title is Gilt, a novel about Catherine Howard’s marriage to Henry VIII.

Take a step back . . . in time: Karen’s personal historical fiction reading challenge

Paris Hilton left us with these infamous words: Math is Hard.  I loved math.  You always knew you had a correct answer before turning in your test.  The subject that is my arch nemesis? History.  I am not a fact retainer, but think in ideas and abstraction.  The essay test is my friend.  But trying to remember who did what with whom and on what specific date – gets me every time.

I remember very distinctly being forced to sit in a chair for hours during the 8th grade as my dad yelled at me for the note he got in the mail letting him know that I was failing history.  Good times.  And in college, I actually wrote the following as answer to a test question: “I can’t remember his name, but I know that he went around preaching door to door with a person whose first name is Andrew.”  That very nice professor gave me partial credit.

The Mr., he can recite TV and movie quotes like it is nobody’s business and I am super jealous of this talent.  It must have come in hand during all those history classes.  I can explain to you why the events of history happened and what we can learn from them, but not who did them and when.  And I can count the number of quotes I can recite from memory on one hand, which is one of the reasons I keep a quote journal.

The point of all this, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction – which I regret.  The other day I had a teenage girl and her mom in my teen area and they were trying to talk to me about historical fiction.  So I have set for myself a challenge: in 2013 I am going to read 5 historical fiction titles for yas.  I am listing the titles I am reading below, but need your help: what titles do you recommend? And for the record, I did read and LOVED Code Name Verity last year.

I am currently reading Maid of Secrets by Jenn McGowan.  It is different then I expected because it has a strong, independent female lead and isn’t overly swoony.  I am having a hard time keeping all these names and titles apart, but overall I am really enjoying the story.  PS. For more historical fiction, Jenn McGowan wrote a guest blog post for us last year highlighting some titles, be sure to check it out.

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
Ann from over at Zest Books highly recommended this title to me and since I respect her infinitely, I am going to be reading it.  It comes out in June 2013 from Viking.  This is the story of Anne Boleyn and the tagline says, “You only think you know her story.”

Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer
This title is based on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which sounds interesting.  Published in January from Simon & Schuster.

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
I had the chance to hear Joy Preble speak this past weekend at the Montgomery County Book Festival, so I thought I would give this series a try.  The story of Anastasia has always been interesting to me, and I like that it has some paranormal elements in it and isn’t a straight forward historical fiction title.

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison
Two princesses, two kingdoms, and ancient prophecy . . .
Does a fantasy romance set in a medieval sounding location actually count as historical fiction?  Probably not.  Maybe.  But, Orson Scott Card gives it a thumbs up and I am going to give it a go. Plus, I do love fantasy.  Coming in May from EgmontUSA

So here is where I need your help, I technically have 5 titles listed here, but it is possible that a couple of them aren’t technically historical fiction.  So tell me in the comments, what 2013 historical fiction title do you recommend that I add to my personal reading challenge?