Author: Katherine Longshore
Publication Date: June 12, 2014
Genre: Historical fiction
“If you only do as others say, be who they want you to be, you will lose yourself. And that will be the greatest loss of all.”
Due to my extreme book hangover, I've dedicated the past couple of days to befriending Google and stalking Mary and Henry Fitzroy and, naturally, proceeding to be a complete history nerd.
I have to admit: Fitz doesn't look that bad. He’d be pretty good-looking as a girl:
After reading and practically devouring this 500 page book in a day, I was hit with the realization that Brazen, despite its flaws, was one of my favorite reads of 2014.
By now, I think I’m fairly familiar with Katherine Longshore’s style of writing, given that I've been loyally following her Tudor series. In my opinion, Brazen is her best novel by far. I can easily track her improvement as a writer; Gilt, her first novel, was okay-ish, while Tarnish, her second, hit me by surprise. Can you imagine my astonishment while reading her latest novel, which was near-perfect in execution? ← (call me cruel but that pun is totally intended.)
If you need help, it was along the lines of wowthatwassuchanamazingbookwherecanIgetthenextone then CRAP THERE ISN’T GOING TO BE ANOTHER ONE then can I just sit here quietly drowning in my intense feels while I ponder the meaning of my life. Yes, my friends, this book was that good.
Don’t let the synopsis fool you. While you may get the distinct impression that this is some sort of teenage fluffy romance novel disguised as historical fiction, that impression is far from the truth. You not only get romance, but you also get Tudor intrigue and women thinking ahead of their time (which is the best). I think Brazen is suffused with meaning and deep in terms of themes and emotional punch. And trust me, Longshore has quite a strong punch when it comes to that department. Brazen is equal parts historical and coming-of-age, which I think will appeal to those who aren't familiar with the historical fiction genre.
The first aspect I noticed was the fluid yet emotional writing, which captured my attention from the beginning and held it captive until the very last page. I don’t think my attention diverted at all in the course of this novel; an accomplishment which can be attributed to the lovely writing.
I actually did not appreciate the depth of Longshore’s characterization until I began to do further research on the characters. Even immediately after finishing the book, I felt as if I had intimately known each individual--or most of them, at least. The major characters--including Mary and Fitz’s group of Hal, Marge, and Margaret--are characters I feel deeply connected to and am considering doing a reread because of this attachment.
Strip this book of its historical setting, and you’d get a simple yet compelling coming-of-age story of a girl who is torn between speaking her mind and following the rules. When we first meet Mary, she is a timid, awkward girl who surely is not fit for marriage. Watching her grow into her skin as the novel progresses was perhaps one of my favorite parts of the novel, and this proves to me that Longshore would have a knack for writing contemporary novels as well. Also, the relationship between the girls--Marge, Margaret, and Mary--was done in a very realistic and genuine manner that is so different your typical YA novel.
The only major flaw that stuck out to me was the dramatization of mostly everything. It made the plot, at times, seem a bit juvenile and contrived. I've noticed this in all of Longshore’s novels, and while it’s definitely downplayed in this novel, I can’t decide whether or not it’s a deliberate choice of the author. After all, who can deny the overall shallowness of the Tudor court? (Deliberate or not, it was still annoying at times.)
I could go on for days on the value of Brazen and all its assets. The relationships, the historical accuracy, the wonderful prose, and, to put the cherry on top, the heart-breaking ending (not sure if that would count as an asset, though…)
When it comes to historical fiction, I’m extremely fastidious--so once I find a near-perfect embodiment of my love for the genre, I will never stop raving about it.