Katherine (Kitty) Tylney is the story’s pushover main character, bosom friend of Catherine (Cat) Howard, a girl who makes it her life’s goal to have fun, gain power, and live only for herself, regardless of who she hurts on her way. I identified with Kitty at some times, recognizing the feelings of being ignored while close friends get all the attention; the heady elation felt when you, the invisible one, are finally noticed; and the strong inner emotions of discovering betrayal and the self-deprecation that comes when you let something happen that you knew would bring terrible consequences.
The author tries to stay true to history as much as possible while weaving an intriguing story, and so because of that, Kitty remains invisible and does not move history as I hoped she would. She lets Cat, and others, walk all over her. She has an inner strength that she rarely lets shine. Knowing her strength and seeing her continue to stifle it over and over again was emotionally draining! I wanted to see Kitty defend herself—wondered when she would stand up for herself, but it almost never happens. It was this desire to see her rise up and fight for the good in this story that made me keep turning the pages. In spite of the continuous disappointment (which, in the end, is inevitable if Longshore was to stay true to historical facts), the book drew me in because the main characters were so well-written.
There are several characters who, though primary, fell flat (I kept getting Alice and Joan mixed up and couldn’t really ‘see’ them in my mind), but the other characters’ depth is what overshadowed them.
One caveat is the almost unending web of sexual manipulation, innuendo, and promiscuity. There are not graphic sex scenes (although there is a rape scene, it is not written in full detail—only describes the horrific nature of it) but continuous sexual language and lust. This ties into the destructive nature of Cat’s (and others’) life—the pursuit of sex and power and riches leads only to…nothing. The hollow pursuits of almost every person in this story bring to light the reality of their consequences. In the end I think it is obvious how much of a waste Catherine’s life ended up being, and it is sadly eye-opening. Because of this, I think this book should a) not be read by girls younger than say, 15—and read with discussion following—and, b) could be helpful in that it shows how living only for yourself and pursuing sex, riches, and power lead to naught. I finished feeling deeply in my heart how important it is to make life so much MORE than this—and I think this book could show teenagers the same. It will leave the reader thinking, “Who cares about jewels and riches and lust—I want deep, real relationship, honesty, and meaning in my life.”