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The Chalice: A Novel (Joanna Stafford series) Paperback – March 18, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 157 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Joanna Stafford Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Henry VIII has defrocked the priesthood and despoiled the Church’s convents and monasteries, though he has not killed its spirit in this sequel to The Crown (2012), continuing the story of Joanna Stafford, former nun and sometime spy, whose destiny is uncomfortably tied both to prophecy and the Tudors. Lovely Joanna’s naïvete, her budding sexuality, and her inner turmoil, combined with the overwhelming greed of powerful religious and political men, again obscures her vision. Three indecipherable prophecies eventually propel her toward rebellion, and while these omens form the weakest part of the story, Joanna emerges as a compelling character who someow manages to weather a fierce emotional battering and the threat of execution. Presenting his narrative through the eyes of a young woman who eventually must accept the “cup” of her fate, Bilyeau paints a moving portrait of Catholicism during the Reformation and of reclusive, spiritual people adjusting to the world outside the cloister. This intriguing and suspenseful historical novel pairs well with C. J. Sansom’s Dissolution (2003) and has the insightful feminine perspective of Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Heretic’s Wife (2010). --Jen Baker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Bilyeau sends her plucky former novice back into the intrigue-laden court of Henry VIII." (Entertainment Weekly)

“The novel is riveting, and provides fascinating insight into the lives of displaced nuns and priests during the tumultuous Tudor period. Bilyeau creates fully realized characters, with complex actions and emotions, driving the machinations of these historic personages.” (RT Book Reviews, (Top Pick))

“English history buffs and mystery fans alike will revel in Nancy Bilyeau's richly detailed sequel to The Crown.” (Parade.com)

"[A] layered book of historical suspense." (Kirkus Reviews)

“I loved the story, the characters and the rich detail of the novel. . . . So much emotion and drama, and surprise twists for even the most hard-to-please mystery fans!” (DuJour Magazine)

"Bilyeau paints a moving portrait of Catholicism during the Reformation and of reclusive, spiritual people adjusting to the world outside the cloister. This intriguing and suspenseful historical novel pairs well with C. J. Sansom’s Dissolution (2003) and has the insightful feminine perspective of Brenda Rickman Vantrease’s The Heretic’s Wife (2010)." (Booklist)

"Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII's reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed." (C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen's Vow)

"Superbly set in the political and religious turmoil between Henry VIII's queens Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, The Chalice is a dark, twisty thriller that I couldn't put down. Nancy Bilyeau's extensive historical research makes the sense of dread, danger, and mysticism permeating this era tangible. Ex-Dominican novice Joanna Stafford is an especially compelling and sympathetic heroine—I adored her!" (Kris Waldherr, author of Doomed Queens)

"An exciting and satisfying novel of historical suspense that cements Nancy Bilyeau as one of the genre's rising stars. The indominable Joanna Stafford is back with a cast of powerful and fascinating characters and a memorable story that is gripping while you are reading and haunting after you are done. Bravo! The Chalice is a fabulous read." (M.J. Rose, author of The Reincarnationist)

"The Chalice offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England's most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner, and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don't let you go even after the last exciting page." (Karen Harper, author of Mistress of Mourning)
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Product Details

  • Series: Joanna Stafford series
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; Reprint edition (March 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476708665
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476708669
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #798,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau is the author of the Tudor mystery series "The Crown," "The Chalice" and "The Tapestry" and a magazine editor who has lived in the United States and Canada. She is a direct descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Nancy's ancestor, Isaac, was born on the boat crossing the Atlantic, the St. Jean de Baptiste. Pierre's stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

Nancy, who studied English literature at the University of Michigan, has worked on the staffs of "InStyle," "Good Housekeeping," and "Rolling Stone." Her debut novel, "The Crown," was the culmination of five years of research into Tudor England, specifically the reign of Henry VIII, and the Catholic monasteries. The heroine is Joanna Stafford, a young novice at a Dominican Priory in Kent who struggles to find a new way of life. Nancy traveled to London and Dartford to find the remains of the Tudor priory and to walk where Joanna walked.

"The Crown" was placed on the shortlist of the Crime Writers' Association's Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award and "The Chalice" won the RT Reviewers Award for Best Historical Mystery.

Nancy's mind is always in Tudor England but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In Reformation England, young novice Joanna Stafford is still reeling from the dissolution of her priory by her distant relation, King Henry the VIII. Used as a pawn by church and state alike, Joanna retires to the town of Dartford to begin a weaving business and try to live a quiet life, but it does not appear to be her destiny. Dragged into a new scandal and at the center of a conspiracy led by prophets and politicians, Joanna must hear the tellings of three seers to learn her ultimate role in the fate of Henry VIII's monarchy.

Traveling through Europe and back, both taken against her will and led by her sense of duty, Joanna's life becomes inextricably entwined in the fate of the kingdom, and only a tremendous act of courage can free her and decide the future.

Tudor England and the surrounding countries never cease to fascinate, and Bilyeau deftly weaves an original and riveting historical mystery. A varied and complex group of characters navigate an intricate plot rich in historical detail, fascinating politics, and forbidden love.

Bilyeau has a gift for animating a long-ago era without burdening the reader. Her characters are so layered that it's hard to tell whom Joanna should trust, whom she should love, and which decisions will most fulfill her. It is this relentless tension that makes the story so engaging, and elevates it above genre suspense. Her characters will linger in the reader's mind long after finishing the novel.

If you enjoy well-written, engaging historical suspense, I highly recommend THE CHALICE. It can be read alone or after reading THE CROWN, though I suggest diving into both in succession.
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By Susan on April 21, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read the Crown and really enjoyed it. This one not so much. This one seems more hodge podge, the events don't seem to flow together as in her first book. The chalice is not even mentioned until over half way though. This was more romance less mystery and very depressing. The ending left me not wanting to read her work ever again. I can read the newspaper if I want depression.
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Format: Kindle Edition
It is the height of the Reformation. Monasteries and priories are being closed, churches being stripped, and heretics being condemned. Former novice Joanna Stafford and the other sisters from the Dartford priory are trying to make sense of their new lives. The struggle for power between church and state has put many Catholics in danger. Prophecy has stated that this grim situation can be rectified, and it may turn out that Joanna is the only one who can rectify it.

Life during the reign of Henry the VIII seems to have been unsettling, at best. Particularly for a Catholic. As a sometimes fan of historical fiction, and somewhat of an Anglophile, I really expected this book to knock my socks off, as the previous book by this author did. And while I found this book to be good, and enjoyed reading it, it fell a bit short of my expectations. While there was not a ton of character development of main characters, much of that was done in the previous book, so that did not bother me too much. I still felt like I had a good handle on who the characters were and their motivations. For me, the plot seemed a bit muddled and meandering. For some reason, I just was not as hooked as I was by the prior book.

The historical nature of the book is really interesting, and I think the book was really well researched. I liked the perspective of life during the Reformation from a Catholic perspective. I imagine it felt very much as if the world was ending. We often talk about how terrible the world is now, violent and angry, but really I think the world was just as violent and angry in the 16th century, as this book illustrates.

All in all, the book was a good read. Solid writing, interesting plot, fresh perspective. I just expected a tiny bit more is all.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review
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Format: Hardcover
The Chalice is the second book in the Crown series by historical fiction author Nancy Bilyeau that takes place during the reign of King Henry VIII. While I haven't yet read the first book in the series I can say that The Chalice can be read successfully as a standalone but it was so good I'm definitely going to have to borrow The Crown to get more of the author's writing.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Chalice. Historical Fiction is one of my favourite genres so it was a real treat to be invited to join the tour for this novel. Rarely have I read a novel that brings this era of England's dark history to life in such a rich and imaginative way that is both captivating and depending on the scenes, disturbing and dark as well.

While I read about Joanna's tale I became completely immersed in the story. For me if an author is able to suck me into the story from the very beginning like Nancy Bilyeau did while I read The Chalice that's a sing that she's an author to watch and after finishing this book I can honestly that Nancy Bilyeau can write anything and I'll read it.

I loved the characters in The Chalice. Joanna is probably one of my top 5 favourite historical fiction heroines ever. Her intelligence, cunning, caring and kind personality really counter balanced the dark undertone of the novel. I was surprised to find that rather than use the side characters more as props to the story the author used them to their full potential making them all integral to the telling of the overall tale which I loved. I love when there's a rich variety of characters that have some real substance to them even if they're the bad guys.
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