Anne Boleyn is the odd girl out. Newly arrived to the court of King Henry VIII, everything about her seems wrong, from her clothes to her manners to her witty but sharp tongue. So when the dashing poet Thomas Wyatt offers to coach her on how to shine at court—and to convince the whole court they’re lovers—she accepts. Before long, Anne’s popularity has soared, and even the charismatic and irresistible king takes notice. More than popularity, Anne wants a voice—but she also wants love. What began as a game becomes high stakes as Anne finds herself forced to make an impossible choice between her heart's desire and the chance to make history.
Tarnish, the latest novel from Katherine Longshore, features a familiar historical figure as its central protagonist: Anne Boleyn. While Anne is often a principal character in works of historical fiction, Tarnish differentiates itself from the multitude of other Anne Boleyn novels by focusing on Anne’s life in the years immediately before she captured the eye of Henry VIII.
Returning to the English court after spending most of her early years abroad, young Anne Boleyn has few friends and even fewer prospects. When poet Thomas Wyatt, a member of King Henry’s inner circle, offers Anne both friendship and the opportunity to gain prominence at court, she accepts. But Anne’s unwillingness to conform keeps her on the periphery of court life. Unhappy with how her life is unfolding, Anne decides to take hold of her own destiny. Her choices are limited, however, and one wrong move may cause her to lose everything. As Anne slowly gains acceptance at court, her relationship with Wyatt grows increasingly complicated, and her feelings for him conflicted. To further confuse her situation, Anne finds herself on the receiving end of King Henry’s attentions – attentions she enjoys receiving.
Geared towards the young adult market, Tarnish features several themes to which a young adult audience can relate, such as the struggle to find one’s place in the world. Longshore’s Anne Boleyn is quick-witted and clever, but she also lacks confidence and seeks validation. As the story is told from the teenage Anne’s perspective, it allows young adult readers to easily identify not only with the novel’s themes, but also with Anne herself. While marketed to ages 12 and up, some of the language and subject matter of this novel make it better suited to older teen readers.
Note: This review first appeared in the August 2013 edition of the Historical Novels Review. A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.