Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 12, 2014
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?"Mary Howard was married off at a young age to Henry VIII's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. You would expect this marriage to be awkward and horrible, and it is in the beginning, but as she gets to know Henry, she realizes that she has true feelings for him and vice versa. So, what is the one problem? Well, they can't be together even though they are married until Henry VIII decides it is appropriate. They can't even spend too much time together alone, let alone a night together and as they grow up, this becomes a source of frustration since they actually have feelings for each other. All the while, the Tudor court is extremely dysfunctional as Henry VIII grows tired of Anne Boleyn. We all know what happens there, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt less, especially since Mary is Anne's cousin and friend. As things get worse at court and Henry VIII's behavior is more and more unpredictable, Mary finds herself wanting to escape with Henry, her husband, but we all know there is no leaving the Tudor court, especially when since Henry Fitzroy is a possible heir to the throne. Katherine Longshore's Brazen is a delicious historical novel that fans of historical fiction as well as the Tudors will devour.
I didn't know much about Mary Howard and was intrigued the more and more I got to know her in Brazen. She loves words, poetry, respects her father, and cares about her friends. As time passes, Mary becomes more bold, which I absolutely loved and after reading the "Author's Note" at the end of the Brazen, I am even more impressed with her courage and fortitude. More importantly, she is actually in love with Henry Fitzroy or "Fitz", her husband through arranged marriage, which is a rarity for the time period. I was rooting for Mary and Fitz from the beginning, but was very nervous about their fate since we all know the Tudor court is unpredictable and the time period is tumultuous.
It was also interesting to learn more about Fitz in Brazen as I really didn't know much about Henry VIII's illegitimate son. Longshore portrays him as a swoon-worthy husband, especially as he gets older and I thoroughly enjoyed him and his relationship with Mary.
It was also fun to revisit the notorious character of Anne Bolyen. Since Mary is a cousin to Anne and her companion, there was a lot of drama in Brazen, especially once Henry VIII turns away from Anne towards Jane Seymour. It's no surprise as to what will happen to Anne, but Longshore still gives us a fresh perspective from the eyes of her loyal cousin, Mary.
Longshore also does a fantastic job keeping the Tudor court fresh. I sometimes get weary of reading about the Tudors, but I can always count on Longshore to keep it fun, full of scandal and intrigue and provide readers with a new feel since Brazen's point of view is from a lesser known protagonist. Longshore also reminds us of how challenging it was for women during the time period, especially if you were from a wealthy/aristocratic family and your father wanted to arrange your marriage. Essentially women would become a chess piece in a much larger and corrupt game of power.
My only issue with Brazen was the length. At times, I wanted more to happen regarding the plot and Mary spends a lot of time waiting around for Fitz, especially when he is away from court. Nonetheless, I was still completely engrossed in Mary's story.
If you love the Tudor court and want a fresh perspective, check out Katherine Longshore's Brazen. Fans of historical fiction will absolutely love this treat of a novel as well as the admirable Mary Howard.