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The Crown (Joanna Stafford series) Hardcover – January 10, 2012
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“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 InStyle, Rolling 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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The characters surrounding Joanna are nuanced and cleverly portrayed and it was fairly easy to keep them all straight, which is usually hard in historical fiction with so many Marys, Elizabeths, and Janes in most novels. Bilyeau's writing is straightforward, but hits on all the emotions. One scene in particular portrays a historical person that I admire in a light I don't necessarily agree with, but it is written with such skill and razor sharp observation that it was impossible for me to criticize it.
Nancy Bilyeau is an exciting voice in historical fiction and I look forward to reading how the rest of Joanna's story plays out. Don't miss this one!
But the day of Margaret's death nothing goes as planned. When Johanna's father attempts to interfere with the execution, both he and Johanna are arrested and thrown into the infamous Tower of London on suspicion of treason. While incarcerated within the Tower's formidable walls, Johanna finds herself the unwilling pawn of the ruthless Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner. He arranges for Johanna's release, on one condition -she is tasked with finding the legendary crown of Athelstan, the first king of a united Britain, whose crown is rumored to possess incredible and dangerous powers. The crown is rumored to be hidden at Dartford, and only when it is safely in Gardiner's possession will her father be released. And so Johanna returns to the priory under a cloud of suspicion and mistrust, her sacred home, once a refuge, now heavy with the portent of faceless dangers. For while her father's life hangs in the balance, Johanna is faced with an equally graver choice -- can one who sought the peace of a religious life survive the treacherous machinations of court? And more importantly, can her faith survive the trials and discoveries her search for the crown requires?
People, THIS BOOK. The Crown is a fresh, utterly captivating glimpse into Tudor England through the eyes of those faithful to the old ways, those who fought to preserve a way of life threatened by the politics of lust and power. Its a rare thing to discover a debut so absorbing and masterfully executed -- a pitch-perfect historical that reads like a tautly-plotted thriller. The intrigue of Henry's court has provided endless fodder for fictional retellings, from the television show The Tudors, numerous films, and countless novels examining the lives of Henry and his wives. Bilyeau smartly sets her debut outside the court proper -- its influence is felt, but The Crown stands apart by showcasing the ripple effect of Henry's policies on those who sought to live their lives and faith outside the court-proscribed norm.
The Crown is positively saturated with the history of faith. Through the characters of Johanna and those who join her in her bid to preserve a vanishing way of life, The Crown is one of the most stirring, well-drawn portraits of faith that I've ever read. This is an emotionally-charged, vibrantly-detailed picture of faith under fire, both personally and corporately, never shying from its oft-times brutally honest examination of the nature and cost of belief, doubt, and sacrifice. While persecution between groups of people, be it over religious, ethnic, or political differences, is as old as mankind itself, here I was particularly struck by the tragedy of the conflict between Catholic and Protestant. Both claiming belief in the same God and His Son, and each side in turn guilty of horrors in the name of advancing their faith.
Joanna is a wonderfully compelling, multi-faceted heroine. A fiery mix of faith, devotion, and a fierce loyalty and temper, the latter often putting her at odds with the lifestyle to which she aspires. In a world where women were confined to strictly proscribed roles, Joanna is a woman wholly of her time, yet determined to be her own woman, above all striving to be true to herself, her faith, and her God. Bilyeau's cast of supporting players are equally well-sketched -- and let me just say, I cannot wait to see what Bilyeau has planned for Joanna's relationships with the angst-ridden healer, Brother Edmund, and the DELICIOUS constable, Geoffrey Scovill. :)
The Crown is an expertly-plotted, page-turning thriller replete with a wealth of historical detail and atmosphere, bringing the sixteenth-century to life. Bilyeau peppers the narrative with fascinating detail, everything from feast preparations to medical treatments for seizures. Given Joanna's status as a novice, Bilyeau deftly recreates the world of the priory, the beliefs and traditions that form the bedrock of Joanna's character. And the history of relics -- particularly the Athelstan crown -- the reverence with which they were viewed and shadowy legends that grew up surrounding their history. With her stunning debut Bilyeau has delivered a heady, unforgettable mix of fact and fiction. An author to watch, I cannot wait to see where she takes Joanna next!