Historical novels can be exceptionally well written, and are truly captivating when reading in this modern age. One of my favorite authors of this genre is Nancy Bilyeau. Two of her best-selling books are now available in paperback, and if you haven’t read these yet, I strongly urge you to!
Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.
The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain.
But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a sensitive young monk, Brother Edmund, to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna’s father alive. At Malmesbury, secrets of the crown are revealed that bring to light the fates of the Black Prince, Richard the Lionhearted, and Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, Arthur. The crown’s intensity and strength are beyond the earthly realm and it must not fall into the wrong hands.
With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must now decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England’s past.” – The Crown
The Crown’s main character, Joanna Stafford, is a very intriguing character. She is a nun, and yet she is quite opinionated, takes charge, and really fights for what she believes in. This is no stereotypical nun, so don’t think that a novel about a nun is necessarily boring, because this one sure isn’t!
Bilyeau is able to create the settings in such detail it really does make you feel like you are walking in this part of history through the story. Sometimes authors use of descriptions are boring and quite honestly, I just skim over it. Bilyeau’s text doesn’t make me want to skim over it. She is able to draw the reader in, and wants to read more, which is a true talent!
The Crown is an extremely well researched historical fictional novel. I don’t pretend to be overly knowledgeable on this part of history, but from what I remember from college history courses (and looking up things online that are in the book), it does remarkably well.
Overall, the text is a little drawn out in some places, but it is a very enjoyable read. The main character is fabulous, and is a very worthy read. I recommend it for all historical fiction fans to read, especially those who also enjoy watching The Tudors.
The Chalice - Book Description
“In the midst of England’s Reformation, a young novice will risk everything to defy the most powerful men of her era.
In 1538, England’s bloody power struggle between crown and cross threatens to tear the country apart. Novice Joanna Stafford has tasted the wrath of the royal court, discovered what lies within the king’s torture rooms, and escaped death at the hands of those desperate to possess the power of an ancient relic.
Even with all she has experienced, the quiet life is not for Joanna. Despite the possibilities of arrest and imprisonment, she becomes caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting Henry VIII himself. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna realizes her role is more critical than she’d ever imagined. She must choose between those she loves most and assuming her part in a prophecy foretold by three seers. Repelled by violence, Joanna seizes a future with a man who loves her. But no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny.
To learn the final, sinister piece of the prophecy, she flees across Europe with a corrupt spy sent by Spain. As she completes the puzzle in the dungeon of a twelfth-century Belgian fortress, Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lies at the center of these deadly prophecies…” – The Chalice
The Chalice is the story of Joanna Stafford, an aristocratic nun whose life is crashing down around her, thanks to King Henry VIII. She is highly intelligent, cunning, and has an outstanding personality that makes the reader truly care about her as a character. She gets highly involved with plots for political and religious power, but the choice of her actions is all hers.
The author did excellent research for this book, and you can really tell she took time to know what she was writing about as you read it. You’ll get an amazing story form her, but you will also learn about the royal court, ladies in waiting, religion, prophecies, and much more in this book.
This is marvelously crafted book that will keep you reading until you have to put it down, so be sure to set large amounts of time away before you get started! I love this book and definitely recommend it to all historical fiction lovers, and those who just like a good book.
* Thank you to the publisher of The Crown and The Chalice, Touchstone, for providing me with a copies of these books for review. All opinions expressed are my own.