Emma's Reviews > Brazen

Brazen by Katherine Longshore
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bookshelves: given-away-post-07-16, historical-fiction, romance, winter-spring-2019, 3-stars

Brazen was certainly entertaining at times, but it took a while for me to get invested, and while I eventually came around to the romance, it was a process. There also wasn't really a plot, to be honest with you, which meant that I felt like the story just sort of meandered along. There are several points where I feel like Longshore could have given a sense of build to the arc, instead of just some general ebbs and flows. There were also a lot of characters and I was unable to attach to many of those characters, even when it was clear that Mary and others did. However, I flew through the book, despite its impressive length, and generally enjoyed myself. I just don't think I'll remember anything about this book in a week.

Mary Howard, at the ripe old age of fourteen, is married as a political move to the equally young Henry Fitzroy, the king's illegitimate son. Given their age, the husband and wife are not allowed to spend time together alone, which means they can never really become close to one another. As their time in the court continues and political alliances shift and fall apart around them, the two begin to fall in love with each other, their spouses. (There's mention of rebellion in the blurb on the back of the book, but I think that's not a really accurate portrayal of what happens.)

Spoilers Discussion

I wish the romance were less insta-love. I totally understand that they want to like each other, they've been forced to marry each other, of course, and I get that they want to spend time together etc. But their attachment was just too quick, and they didn't actually hang out ever? Like they went to see the stars this one time and… that's sort of it? They did some kissing also. But they didn't have real bonding time where they could actually fall in love. That sort of stuff bugs me.

I liked Mary. She was involved and moral enough to make it easy for her to root for while also being able to compromise some of those values when necessary. I like the ending (case in point of how I couldn't bond to the characters-- I couldn't care about Fitz's death. He died alone, as written on a separate page even!, and I couldn't get myself to really care. Anyway) and how she fights to be her own person. The author's note at the end mentioned that she fought for her title and her money for the rest of her life, refusing to remarry, and I like envisioning the Mary we got to know over the course of this story living out the rest of her days like that.

I liked the three friends, and I liked how their allegiances shifted and changed. The story of Madge and the king is, of course, an all too common one of a man in power using that power to get a much younger woman (Madge is borderline a girl, she's like fifteen?) into bed with him. And Queen Anne's pain was absolutely understandable and painful, especially given a comparison with how Anne and the king started the book.

However, I did not connect to Queen Anne in the way that Mary did and the way that I think I was supposed to. She seemed to me to be a fine woman, and I understand that Mary was looking for female role models, and I like how she was a bit of a disruptor, but she was also remarkably cruel and didn't really seem to me to do much to inspire confidence in her maids/companions. (Also, why was Madge, with whom Anne's husband cheated, there for her beheading? I feel like that's not the person I would want standing by me in that moment.)

I think the plot was just soooo sloooow. It would be so easy to make the difficulties between Anne and the king feel more dangerous and urgent and have the story build to the moment of their fall-out. Instead, I felt like we were distracted by a bunch of different things (who was having an affair with the king and who a bunch of other people were sleeping with, for good measure) when really there's this huge drama happening in the middle. I wish there were a way that Longshore could indicate to the reader that the drama with the queen and king is the key to the whole thing, and all the other friendship and romance issues should be seen in the light of that drama. But, of course, the issue of having the queen and king be the main drama of the story is that Mary isn't one of them! So then is the story all about Mary and Fitz's relationship? I guess that could work, but then they need to spend way more time together, instead of the whole book being "Fitz is away at [English town/province/city] and the court is traveling between [____shire and _____shire]" which makes it hard to bond to them!

I'm not super interested in pursuing this author further, though this was absolutely a fine effort!

Fin!

Fine, but slow and I couldn't connect: 82%
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Reading Progress

May 14, 2014 – Shelved
May 14, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
January 17, 2019 – Started Reading
January 17, 2019 – Shelved as: romance
January 17, 2019 – Shelved as: given-away-post-07-16
January 17, 2019 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
January 17, 2019 – Shelved as: winter-spring-2019
January 17, 2019 – Shelved as: 3-stars
January 17, 2019 – Finished Reading

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