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The Tapestry: A Novel (Joanna Stafford series) Hardcover – March 24, 2015
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This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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"Fans of the Tudor era, you’re in for a treat." (InStyle.com)
“[A] meticulously researched blend of historical Tudor fiction and mystery draws a reluctant Joanna back into Henry VIII’s court . . . Look for murder plots, politics, treachery and love.” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
“In Joanna Stafford, Bilyeau has given us a memorable character who is prepared to risk her life to save what she most values.” (Deborah Harkness)
“Nancy Bilyeau's passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy, and this third book will not fail to thrill readers. Warmly recommended!” (Alison Weir, author of The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I)
"A rip-roaring Tudor adventure from Nancy Bilyeau! Novice nun turned tapestry weaver Joanna Stafford returns to the court of Henry VIII. She's that great rarity of historical fiction: a fiercely independent woman who is still firmly of her time. A mystery as richly woven as any of Joanna's tapestries." (Kate Quinn, author of Lady of the Eternal City)
"The Tapestry takes its history seriously, but that doesn't stop it from being a supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau's most thrilling - and enlightening - novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet." (Andrew Pyper, International Thriller Writers Award winner of The Demonologist and The Damned)
"A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with the sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations . . . Bilyeau breathes life into history." (Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King)
"In The Tapestry, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well." (Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale)
“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” (Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl)
“These aren't your mother's nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” (Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire)
Praise for The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau:
"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)
"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)
"Nancy Bilyeau’s The Tapestry continues herexcellent incursion into the turbulent and high-stakes world of the TudorReformation in England. It was a time when principle and faith had to do battlewith arbitrary power and personal fear to keep surviving. The narrative voicedraws us into the story from the first page and drives us forward to the end.What is most striking about the book is how it cleverly intertwines the historyand political intrigue in the court of Henry VIII with an account of an intenselypersonal drama and romance. A vividstory, well and clearly told, which will be enjoyable for a wide variety ofreaders." (Aly Monroe)
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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In full disclosure, Nancy and I occasionally share pages of our manuscripts to edit for each other. We’re good friends—a friendship that arose out of my admiration for her skill as a writer. So I’ll show you a couple close ups of what there is to admire in this third book.
Nancy writes thrillers—like the more common, modern version of a thriller, in Nancy’s you are biting your nails with worry about the survival of characters you care about, and danger mounts in alarming and unexpected ways. In Nancy’s version of a thriller, you are also taken vividly back into the world of Tudor England. History with a zing—an adrenalin rush zing. That’s a great premise.
A lot of precision writing goes into making such a challenging premise work.
There are the skillful opening sentences, for example. Joanna was, until Henry VIII made it impossible, a novice Dominican nun. The reader wouldn’t immediately imagine violent threats and spies as the daily substance of a nun, even a nun who lives without a monastery, and indeed Joanna insists she hopes for a quiet life. But from the opening, Bilyeau ratchets up our expectations and set off our “uh oh” radar as readers.
“I was once told that whenever I felt suspicious of someone’s intent, no matter how faintly, I should trust that instinct, but since the man who issued this advice had himself tried to kill me, and nearly succeeded, it was difficult to know how much weight to give his words.
I felt this distrust in a place where all others seemed at ease, as I followed a page through the tall, gleaming rooms of the Palace of Whitehall, filled with the most prosperous subjects of King Henry VIII. To anyone else, it would seem the safest place in all of England.
But not to me.”
The reader is thus plunged into a thriller environment from the start.
But we’re also tugged deeply into this Tudor place and time in ways that stay integral to the story. Bilyeau is one of the best at weaving in the historical details without losing a fast pace. From this scene of opening tension, we jump back in time eight days and move quickly up to this key moment. The eight days are filled with decisions we see as ominous and hints of trouble disguised as opportunity. We feel the warmth of her friends and the invisible knifepoint at her throat. Then in chapter 4 the story circles back to that walk through the Palace of Whitehall:
“The hall, like the courtyard, was filled with men, though these were calm. High above their heads stretched a ceiling possessing as much meticulous grandeur as the gatehouse. The same black-and-white checks, the judicious sprinkling of fleurs-de-lis. Mullioned windows were set high in the walls. It struck me that this was a very modern palace. I strained to remember what I knew of Whitehall—it was the London home of the archbishops of York until Henry VIII’s first minister, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, took ownership and spend a fortune expanding it. After the king turned against Wolsey, he took Whitehall. Just as, years earlier, he had my uncle the Duke of Buckingham executed on trumped-up charges of treason and then took all his properties. That was what Henry VIII did—he took.”
In one deft paragraph, Bilyeau accomplishes four essential things: setting, historical background, theme and establishment of the personal stakes of the main character. That’s a lot in a short span and you don’t feel weighed down as a reader, but rather pulled in.
Bilyeau lays out setting so you are most definitely there in that place with Joanna seeing it through 16th century eyes. We get the giant scale, although she never actually says the room is big. We see the details of decoration and light. Notice how we’re put inside Joanna’s perception—this is a modern palace.
Then we glimpse the darkness hidden behind the “modern” windows and tall ceilings. How did this come to be Henry’s palace? Bilyeau slips in one of the novel’s themes and puzzles—Henry is a compulsive taker (and, we’ll learn, discarder). What are the consequences of this drive? She touches on the specific historical events that prove that theme, thus orienting the average reader with all the needed facts. I’m not a Tudor history fanatic. I need to be told who the players are and which conflicts matter. But I don’t want to be lectured—no lectures here. Just precision strokes with the pen.
And then the ominous close to the paragraph. Henry takes and takes. He’s taken from Joanna through trumped-up charges. She’s walking through the palace of a man who cannot be trusted, most particularly not by Joanna.
That’s a lot for one paragraph to accomplish. I’m impressed. I hope you are and are tantalized into reading Bilyeau’s trilogy: The Crown, The Chalice and The Tapestry.