TARNISH – Katherine Longshore
ISBN: 978-0-670-01400-2
June 2013
Historical Fiction for Youth and Adults

London, England; 1523 – 1525

The Boleyns, Anne and George, are at court to see and be seen, if their father has his way.  Unfortunately, Anne, as one of Queen Katherine's ladies in waiting, has a serious knack for drawing unwelcome attention to herself by being different and unlike any of the other ladies at court.  This has not made her popular, while George seems to thrive on sport, bedding as many women as possible, and bringing about the definition of a rake.  Their sister, Mary, is King Henry VIII's current mistress, and this should win the Boleyn family some popularity, but alas, it hasn't.  Anne wants to stand out and improve their reputation, but her unruly tongue and less-than-fashionable wardrobe get fingers pointed at her, not her biting wit or sparkling charm.  To make matters worse, the king's sister, Mary, Duchess of Suffolk, also seems to take great pleasure in taunting Anne.  Truly, life at court is not what Anne thought it would be…

And then Sir Thomas Wyatt, very married, walks in and lays siege to Anne's mind, making her want something she has never had before – a true friend.  As one of Henry's closest friends and a poet, Thomas has a reputation with the ladies, and his poetry has caused more than a few hearts to melt.  But Anne interests him in ways he's never experienced before.  Her sharp tongue may not make her likeable, but it serves as protection against hurt and disappointment.  When he's in her presence, sparks fly and he just cannot seem to get enough of her.  Thomas offers his services in improving Anne's image and making her one of the queen's more popular ladies in waiting; she suspects that he wants more from her than just her accord.  Anne agrees anyway.

Within short time, Anne gains more confidence in herself and starts to recognize that she was made for greater things than dancing to her father's tune.  It serves as a natural allure for many men at court, including the king himself.  On the sidelines but still in the match, as it were, Thomas watches his protégé blossom and quickly realizes that he may be partly responsible for her increasing popularity, but that it may just push her out of his reach.

What has he started?

It's hard for me to imagine Anne Boleyn as awkward or even needing to improve herself even in her early days at the Tudor court.  But I tend to think of her as Henry VIII's greatest love (my opinion) and one of his court's most brilliant minds, seductive and wily.  So I'm biased.  But Katherine Longshore puts an interesting spin on Thomas Wyatt's rumored romantic love for Anne.  He was well-known for his poetry and passionate entanglements despite the fact that he was married, and many even suspect that many of his poems were written about and for Anne Boleyn.  In the course of trying to whip up this review, I first thought to say that Ms. Longshore's depiction of Anne Boleyn is almost a shadow of what I've always thought the much maligned woman to be.  But that's not true.  I've always considered Anne Boleyn a colorful individual who is easy for some to love and just as easy for others to revile; truly, she's a favorite of mine.  TARNISH is a beautifully written book that provides a side of Anne that many have not considered – a bit unsure of herself but knowing that she wants more than what life has provided for her thus far.  This version of Anne doesn't go to court with the intent of ensnaring Henry VIII as many people think; she's grasping but only for wanting a bit of life for herself and to see what more is out there.  And, really, what is so wrong about that?

TARNISH is refreshing and definitely got me thinking.  I'm glad this assignment landed in my lap.

Amy Cunningham