In Which I Fall in Love with Thomas Wyatt (and Anne Boleyn)

I still remember the first time I read a tiny snippet of Katherine Longshore's work, during that early morning workshop in 2009 when Katy read a few pages from GILT.  It was a vivid, shocking, suck-you-in kind of scene featuring Thomas Culpepper and his friends doing very bad things.  I was completely hooked.  I knew I had to read that book, and once I did, I knew I had to read everything ever written by Katherine Longshore. 

After reading TARNISH, all I can do is demand that she write faster!  Because as page-turning and heartbreaking as GILT was, TARNISH went a step further- it grabbed me by the heart and squeezed.

TARNISH is the story of young Anne Boleyn, newly returned to the English court as an outcast after being sent away to France following an embarrassing incident with King Henry.  Anne just wants to be accepted, but she also clings hard to her independence, refusing to change her fashion (too French) or bite her tongue for the sake of the courtiers.  She wants to break free of the handcuffs of English society, and be respected not just for her appeal to the males of court, but for ideas and abilities.  Even as a teen, Anne is a woman far ahead of her time.

Enter Thomas Wyatt, (*sigh*) the charming poet and member of the King's inner circle, a man who uses wit and words like no other.  Wyatt makes a bet with Anne that he can make her the most popular girl in court:

"If I help you,” Wyatt says, “if the two of us gain your acceptance to this most unaccepting of courts—before long in this pretty, showy dance, you will want me in your bed.”

I laugh right in his face. “Would you like to place a wager on that outcome?”

A glimmer of shock crosses his face—quick, like a sun shadow.

“I never pass up a bet.”

“And if you lose—which you undoubtedly will—you will not press me further?”

“If I lose this bet”—Wyatt holds a hand to his heart—“I will write a poem about you that will be passed down through the ages as a masterpiece of all time. And I will always remain your humble servant.”

He bows to me with a flourish, and I am able to affix a mask of nonchalance before he rises. I can’t let him see that he’s already charmed me. I can’t let him see how much I need him.

“So what is your strategy?” I ask.

“I will pursue you. And you will encourage it.”

“And what will that gain me?”

“The attention of all the other men at court. At least the ones that count.”

“Like Henry Norris? No thank you.”

“Norris can get you places. He’s a favorite of the king.”

“So is my sister.”

Wyatt looks at me as one would an idiot child.

“But women don’t matter at this court, Anne. In our world, women have no influence, carry no interest.”

Have no voice. Have no lives of our own.

“It’s the men that matter,” he continues. “And most men are too stupid to see what’s right in front of their faces. The only time they want something is when they can’t have it, a jewel in someone else’s bonnet. They take notice of something when it flashes a signal—like the white tail of a deer. The signal for pursuit.”

“So you intend to be the flag on my ass?”

His grin broadens to double dimples.

“I intend to hold you up so that you catch the light.”
So yeah, I might love Thomas Wyatt a little.

As Anne and Wyatt flirt and banter and feel their way around each other, Anne's fortunes do change, and it's easy to understand why she makes the choices she does.  But when her star shines so brightly that even the King takes notice, it's impossible not to cringe and want to scream "No!" because we know how it will all end for poor Anne.   But that's the beauty of TARNISH.  Even though I knew how Anne's story must end, I was transfixed by the story of how a girl who was a nobody might someday become a queen who would change the course of English history.  Of how a girl who loved one man could choose another so that her voice could finally be heard.  Of how a girl who changed history could be so very human and flawed.

And did I mention that I fell completely and utterly in love with Thomas Wyatt?


P.S. So excited to be co-hosting a book launch with Katy this Saturday June 22 at the Avid Reader in Davis, CA at 4 p.m.  We'd love to see you!  Unfortunately, Thomas Wyatt will not be joining us, but there will be cake.


OK, so I am not usually drawn to historical fiction but this excerpt and description have me mightily intrigued and the Kirkus review was awesome. May need to get this one!! Congrats!

Hooray for trying new things, Heather! If you do try it out, let me know what you think!

And thank you!

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