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The Crown (Joanna Stafford series) Hardcover – January 10, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 276 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Joanna Stafford Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“An engrossing thriller…[the] extensive historical research shines.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Part The Da Vinci Code, part The Other Boleyn Girl, it will keep you guessing until the very end!” – Woman’s Day, Book Pick of the Month

“Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical research throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal.” – O, The Oprah Magazine

“[An] inventive thriller…A captivating heroine, Stafford will have you eagerly following every step of her quest.” – Parade

“[A] captivating thriller.” – All You

“The right sort of action to lure fans of historical fiction: righteous nuns, evil bishops, real-world figures and a potential burning at the stake.” – Time Out New York

“When her cousin is condemned to death by King Henry VIII, daring young nun Joanna risks everything to be by her side.” – People Magazine

“History buffs will delight in the details interwoven in the story.” – Times Record News

“I’m loving ‘The Crown.’” – Redbook

“Bilyeau weaves her breathtaking story though a string of events to a pleasing conclusion while giving the reader a more thorough understanding of a complicated bit of history. Historical fiction as it should be.” – Florida Times-Union

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown and The Chalice, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyleRolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She is currently the executive editor of Du Jour magazine. A native of the Midwest, she lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Visit her website at NancyBilyeau.com.
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Product Details

  • Series: Joanna Stafford series
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone; First Edition edition (January 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781451626858
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451626858
  • ASIN: 1451626851
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (276 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Crown
Nancy Bilyeau
Touchstone, January 2012
416 pages
(thanks to Touchstone for sending me a review copy!)

The Crown is excellent historical fiction, and a satisfyingly suspenseful mystery, set during the reign of Henry VIII. Joanna Stafford, a young nun, learns that her favorite cousin is about to be burned at the stake. Disobeying the Dominican sisters' vow of enclosure away from the world, she leaves Dartford Priory to support her cousin.

Joanna and her father are captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London, charged with obstructing the King's justice. That is where Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester, finds her and makes his proposition. In exchange for her freedom and her father's life, Joanna is to return to Dartford Priory. There, she must search for Athelstan's crown, a relic so powerful it might grant eternal life, or brutal, cursed death. If found, it could end the Reformation.

The Crown is just about everything I could want from well-written and well-researched historical fiction.Sister Joanna's perspective gives an excellent sense of time and place. Sister Joanna is devout and certain in her faith, and finds purpose in the rituals of the Dominican order. Supporting characters are equally well-drawn. Their ideas and beliefs feel properly anchored in their time period, rather than 21st century imitations mouthing lines and wearing costumes.

As Joanna begins to search the priory in secret, the level of detailed description means I can almost see what she is seeing: the shadowed passages of the priory, half-finished tapestries, leeches in the infirmary. Once things get more suspenseful, there is a distinct whiff of supernatural chill, to go along with the increasingly complex turns of history and conspiracy.
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Format: Hardcover
When I picked up this book to start reading I was thinking, OK, how exciting can a book about a nun really be? Well the answer is: VERY! I was pleasantly surprised to discover this book was nothing like I was expecting and Joanna Stafford made for a great protagonist. I think that's mainly because she's really not cut out to be a nun, despite her fervent faith, but she hasn't quite figured that out yet. She's educated and she was raised to be a lady of the court, so she's wise in many ways that her fellow sisters are not. She's opinionated, has a take charge attitude, stands up for what she believes in, and has a hard time keeping her mouth shut. Those qualities don't make for a very good nun, but they do make for an excellent heroine!

This is a mystery and the back cover copy does a good job of setting up the story, so I won't risk divulging any spoilers by describing the plot. But I will say that Nancy Bilyeau is an excellent writer. She really gets into some of the political intricacies of Henry VIII and his advisors, and seamlessly weaves them into a tale of blackmail and the search for a holy relic set amidst the lives of some of the people who have the most to lose from Thomas Cromwell's war against the Catholic Church. The narrative is perfect, the period details are just right, the characters are intriguing, and it really is a well-crafted novel.

But, there are two things that keep me from rating this higher. The story is exciting and takes some good twists and turns, but it also suffers from some very slow periods and I found myself skimming to get back to the action. And, as a hopeless romantic, I was disappointed in some choices Joanna made at the end of the story and I was left feeling a little dissatisfied.
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Format: Hardcover
The Crown is Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel about a Dominican nun set during the Tudor era right before the death of Jane Seymour, the third wife of King Henry VIII. Sister Joanna, of the disgraced Stafford family, is cloistered at Dartford Priory when she hears the news of the execution of her most beloved cousin, Margaret. She breaks the rules of the priory and sneaks out to be with Margaret in her time of need. She, along with her father, are arrested and sent to the Tower of London.

There, she meets the Bishop of Winchester, who blackmails Joanna; she is forced to seek out an ancient relic of the Saxon king Athelstan, the first king of a unified England since 927 CE. The relic that she seeks is his crown, which, upon wearing it, King Athelstan was able to win an insurmountable battle to unite England.

The Crown has been described as a cross between a Dan Brown and Philippa Gregory novel, which is definitely apparent. I love the idea of a historical fiction thriller, especially set during the Tudor time period. There are a lot of twists and turns, and while predictable at times, a lot of it kept me guessing. It definitely wasn't a flashy thriller. Not very difficult to read at all. I also found The Crown to be well researched.

The first fifty pages captured me, but upon Joanna's release from the Tower of London, it seemed to me that the story kind of stagnated. I felt that the flow was a bit stunted and never really picked up for me. I also found it to be anti-climactic in the end. It seems like this book is setting itself up for a sequel.

I loved Joanna's character, though. It was really interesting to read about the political intrigue of the time through the eyes of someone that wasn't a courtier.
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