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The Altarpiece (The Cross and Crown) (The Cross and the Crown) Hardcover – March 6, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Cross and the Crown Series

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sarah Kennedy is a professor of English at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia and the author of seven books of poems. She holds a PhD in Renaissance Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing. Sarah has received grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts and is currently a contributing editor for Shenandoah.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Cross and the Crown (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing; 1 edition (March 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1908483474
  • ISBN-13: 978-1908483478
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,462,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you are looking for an intelligent, well-thought out historical fiction wrapped in a good mystery, I would recommend this novel to you. Sarah Kennedy's characters are not the flat, whining court women so often found in Tudor fiction. Catherine Havens, a nun and healer at the Priory of Mount Grace, races against time to find a missing altarpiece and discover the truth behind the mysterious deaths that keep happening in her small village. I particularly enjoyed reading Catherine's cures for everything from smallpox to childbirth. I think the second book is definitely one I will keep an eye out for!
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Format: Hardcover
This book explores the relationship when Henry VIII breaks from Rome to create the Church of England. He demands that all Catholic priests and nuns renounce their ties to the Pope and embrace his new religion. Catherine Havens, a young nun and healer, who lives in a small convent in Mount Grace faces the unimaginable when the King's soldiers come to Mount Grace to turn the nuns out of their abbey and to seize anything of value. The nuns try to hide as many valuables as they can and refuse to open the abbey doors to nobleman Lord Robert Overton and his soldiers when they come to claim their spoils.

Catherine is torn. She's been at the abbey since infancy when Cristina took her in and raised her, but her real passion is the healing arts. When she nurses Robert's brother with the pox back to health, her loyalties and faith are severely tested. The story explores her struggle between her growing feelings for William and her loyalty to the prioress and her vows. The book is well researched and a host of secondary characters immerses the reader in what life was like in 1535 England. I did find the story a little slow in parts, but the character of Catherine is compelling and will keep you turning the pages.

I received the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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Format: Hardcover
There seems to be a growing trend toward serialization of stories: witness the Harry Potter series, the Twilight series, the Fifty Shades of Grey series - to name but a few. It now seems that Sarah Kennedy has set out to make her own serial extravaganza about the 16th century changes in England and while her initial presentation, THE ALTARPIECE, is a solidly constructed novel, it pleads tolerance for more of the same.

The premise is a good one: what did the Catholic Church in England do when Henry VIII took the knife to the life line with Rome, creating the Church of England at the expense of essentially devastating the remnants of Catholicism in his realm? Kennedy creates the character of Catherine Havens, an abandoned child taken in by the prioress of the abbey in a local town in Yorkshire. With the schism of the broken church and Henry's infamous marriages and divorces and beheadings, life for the young bright mistress of healing changes from the desire for living at court to taking the veil. As the pillaging of the churches continues the altarpiece at Mount Grace goes missing the intrigue begins and Catherine and her friend Ann become the focus of investigation - a factor that leads to a blend of conflicts between love for church and longing for corporal love.

Sarah Kennedy is a poet and her eloquence of prose supports that. But poems are concise self-contained works that do not necessarily translate to prose. The story is fine but it is the pacing and the resistance toward forward momentum that a novel needs that is too frequently missing. For a first venture into novel writing it would seem that a single freestanding story would have served Kennedy's foray better than placing a `Book One of the Cross and the Crimson Series' before her readers. Grady Harp, March 13
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Format: Hardcover
This book is fit for readers of all types. Although it is a historical fiction a proficiency in British history is not required. In fact, the book itself provides an entertaining and useful introduction to the complicated and chaotic religious transition that makes this period so interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire book and caught on to a lot of the historical allusions and quips with only having taken an introductory course in British history. The novel has it all: love, lust, mystery, tragedy, and an ample supply of action scenes. I would recommend it to anyone interested in England during Henry the eighths rule to people only looking for a page turner. One aspects of this novel that makes it even more valuable is the change in spotlight, from the political and religious leaders of the time to the political/religious consequences that affected the people lower on the totem pole and the experiences of the common man.
If you do decide to pick it up I recommend you do so willing to spend hours reading it; the twists and turns of the novel make it especially engaging. I couldn't put it down once I began.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel is set in 1535 when England is still involved in the struggle over the break with the Church of Rome and the acceptance of the Church of England and King Henry as the Supreme Head of the Church. The country is in turmoil as the monasteries and priories are forcibly shut down and the monks and nuns are brutally assaulted and turned out with nowhere to go. This is the story of twenty year old Catherine Havens, a nun at the Priory of Mount Grace, who is the adopted daughter of the Prioress. A very expensive and rare wooden, painted altarpiece has disappeared at the same time as the nobleman, Robert Overton, has come to claim the priory as his property given to him by King Henry. Only the sudden, very serious illness of Lord Robert's younger brother William saves the priory and the nuns from immediate destruction and expulsion. Catherine, who is a healer, saves William from death and he in turn sets out on the quest with her to solve the mystery of the missing altarpiece as well as several mysterious deaths that have occurred after the disappearance of the altarpiece. The brutality and the hopelessness of the period are very accurately portrayed in this novel. The author has done a fantastic job of portraying the brutality of the 1500's and that time of great upheaval in England. It is interesting to see the growth and awareness in Catherine as she struggles to understand herself and her feelings towards William as she searches for the missing altarpiece. The ending leaves so many interesting choices for new adventures that I look forward to reading the next book in the series. There are also several other interesting and likable characters from the village that I look forward to seeing in future books.
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