Brazen by Katherine Longshore
Release Date - June 12, 2014Publisher Website - Penguin/Razorbill
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 528 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received in exchange for an honest review**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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?Words have weight. Words matter. Words,when used in a certain way, can be a weapon that cuts as deep as any knife. Words can also heal. In Brazen, Katherine Longshore shows that three little words can break your heart. As a result, it's Katherine Longshore's words that truly shine in the finale to the Tudor Court trilogy of companion novels.
Words fascinate Mary Howard. To her they have a taste. Words, and finding the right ones, consume her. This aspect of her personality endeared her to me, and provided some rather poetic lines of writing that were breathtaking. Marys longs, like Anne before her, to be her own person. She wants to do things for herself, and not because she's ordered to. I fell in love with her character effortlessly. Her journey to coming into her own, and finding her own unique voice mirrors those teenage years where you're discovering yourself. The stakes are just raised for Mary because, for her, the wrong move could mean death.
Mary's declaration that she does not need anyone to give her an identity because she has her own was possibly one of my favourite moments in not just this novel, but any novel. The message of finding your own self worth, and embracing it is such a huge part of Mary's journey, but it's a lesson everyone should learn.
Forbidden romances are plentiful in Brazen. Mary and Fitz are the primary focus. Forbidden from acting on their desire to be together, even though they are married, presented a sort of delicious torture. Each almost kiss, each stolen moment, every whispered promise cemented their star crossed love story. I couldn't imagine being prevented from consummating my marriage just so that it might be annulled if 'something better' came along. Held at the King's mercy Mary and Fitz fall in love against the odds, and it is this choice that gives them strength. Being together is something they chose themselves. They may have been forced together, but they chose to fall in love. In a world without many choices, this would feel incredible. It made all the feelings more deep, and everything tinged with a sense or urgency because it could be ripped away at any moment.
While the romance is certainly swoon worthy, it was the friendships that impacted me the most. Each interaction between Mary, Madge and Margaret shows the bonds they've formed. Their friendship is integral to the plot, and defines each of the women more than their romances ever could. They protect, console, and listen to each other. Refreshing, and often times missing from novels, Brazen allowed the friendship to take the focus, even as the romance was woven within.
Regrets are a vital theme of this novel. It sometimes aches from the characters in waves, other times it's a wistful whisper glimpsed only briefly. Allowing fear to prevent us from acting and seizing something we want can haunt us. That fear can also be crippling. Katherine masterfully shows the courage it takes to live so you don't have those regrets, and the sadness of living with them.
The second half of the novel doesn't hold back. The build up and execution is brilliantly done. I was left emotionally drained as everything came crashing down, and unraveled. Novels that offer a satisfying culmination, even if torturous, after an intelligently planned build up are incredibly rewarding, and Brazen pulls this off immensely.
Any historical novel that can surprise you has done what it set out to do. We know the ending of the story before we begin. It's the journey you take to get there, the connections you make with the characters, and the feelings it compels out of you that make the difference. Katherine brings these characters to life in a way that feels deeply authentic and she uses every single page to show us why historical novels are still relevant.
Each of Katherine's novels seem to get richer and more stunning than the last. Brazen is filled with sharp writing, courtly intrigue, and a main character that broke my heart, mended it, and left me wanting to live my life with no regrets. Fans of historical novels will adore this one, but non historical readers will fall just as deeply under it's spell.