The short life and times of Henry VIII's fifth wife, as seen through the eyes of her friend.
Cat Howard styles herself Queen of Misrule in the Duchess of Norfolk's maidens’ chamber (a misnomer if ever there was one). When Cat is selected to be one of Anne of Cleves’ ladies-in-waiting, she soon catches the king’s eye, and the rest, as they say, is history. Cat rescues mousy friend Kitty to attend her in her chambers, giving Kitty and readers an intimate view of that history. Hewing closely to what little is known about Howard's circumstances, Longshore allows Kitty to thread the maze of alliances that was the court of Henry VIII. She concentrates on domestic details while brushing with broad strokes the politics of the men’s world. Kitty's narration is formal, but her language is modern, a balance between authenticity and readability that is mostly successful. Her sense of her own powerlessness, and by extension all women's, even the queen’s, comes through clearly. The mounting terror as lusty, luxury-loving Cat’s fortunes fall is palpable, as is the sense that the queen is no innocent. The author’s adherence to historical detail is admirable, clashing with both title and cover, which imply far more froth than readers will find between the covers.
A substantive, sobering historical read, with just a few heaving bodices. (Historical fiction. 13 & up)