Brazen is a historical novel aimed at the YA set. Told through the voice of young Tudor noblewoman Mary Howard, the story chronicles her life from her marriage to Henry Fitzroy until his death. It is a light coming-of-age story that happens to be set in the past. Generally, I would applaud the attempt to include a historical setting, personages and events as the backdrop for a novel appealing to young women.
However, for reasons unfathomable to me, Katherine Longshore has elected to restyle none other than Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, as a caring father. There is no mention of the tireless promotion of his niece, Anne Boleyn, for his own self-interest, although Mary serves in her household and Anne herself is featured heavily. Nor is Norfolk’s treatment of Anne or his part in her trial and execution ever mentioned. Rather, Thomas Howard, who mercilessly beat, starved, tortured and imprisoned his wife for years and was not known to spare the rod to his children, including Mary, is within the pages of Brazen touted as a savior – rescuing Mary, his “dear child,” from none other than her battered and abused mother. In fact, never in the course of the novel does he physically enforce his will on his daughter.
Overall, Longshore’s general facts are acceptable, albeit simplified and fluffed up, but they certainly give young readers a general overview of the period. However, the depiction of Thomas Howard as a savior begs the question of why Longshore felt it necessary for Mary to need one. I would rather that young women read that Mary Howard, though privileged, had little help or love from either of her parents and, despite all of that, grew to be a caring, nurturing adult. To my mind that is what the message to young women should be, and ironically it is the message that history has already provided.