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?
What worked: Ohmigod, EVERYTHING. There is court intrigue, friendship, fashion, dalliances, and hot court guys. We are introduced to Catherine Howard, the unknown wife of Henry VIII's illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy. Though she's married, it's nothing more than basically a political arrangement. Problem is Catherine starts to fall in love with Fitz and the consequences of acting on her love can be deadly. One thing everyone knows is not to cross the King. Heads literally will roll. Rules are broken along the way with Catherine and her two close friends, Margaret and Madge in the name of love. Only later do they face the painful consequences.
Catherine, Madge, and Margaret are the first 'brat' pack of the 16th century. There's tons of gossip and flirting and the friends join right along. There's even a journal that they pass along to each other where they post poetry. Later the friends use the journal to give hope to each other when all seems hopeless.
The intrigue in Queen Anne Boleyn's court is haunting especially as it's right at the end of her rule. Longshore does an amazing job breathing life into these characters. I'm a huge fan of the CW series REIGN but this novel is so much better! The emotion and longing between Fitz and Catherine is heartbreaking. Catherine 'tries' to be brave and kiss him but when he pushes her away, she's shattered. Later though the two do come together by way of Catherine's brother. All the while they pray they won't be caught. Catherine's ambitious father though has other plans. Catherine is torn between being a pawn in a dangerous game that can only have deadly repercussions.
I kind of knew what would happen but that didn't mean I didn't hope there might be a chance these two would escape the harsh rule of Fitz's father and live in peace. Let's just say I was teary eyed toward the end. I love bittersweet love stories. This story is that and much more. Friendships and allegiances are tested. Mostly though the will to be free to love and not be a pawn of men is one huge theme that resonates throughout this story. Will Catherine be able to break free of centuries long tradition and be true to not only herself but the ones she loves?
I loved being swept away in the dazzling court life of Henry VIII and hearing the whispers of intrigue and courtly love. A must read for any fan of historicals.