If you want to find a thrilling historical series to read from the Tudor Era, look no further than Nancy Bilyeau’s Joanna Stafford Series. Always well-researched and action packed, they are a special set to add to your collection. It all started with The Crown, then The Chalice. You can read my review of The Chalice, HERE and an interview I did a few years ago with Nancy HERE.
Today I have a pre-publication review (pub date: 3/24) of the third book in the series, The Tapestry. The beautiful cover with its weave overlay is representative of this particular novel, in which Joanna Stafford, ex-Dominican novice, is propelled into an initial mission–to come to the court of Henry VIII and weave one of her famous tapestries for his vast collection. Joanna doesn’t pretend there is love lost between King Henry and herself due to his destruction of the Catholic faith in England (though they are blood related). The book interlocks and interweaves all the intrigue and drama of this particular time period–from someone trying to assassinate Joanna or to King Henry setting his sites on his mistress Catherine Howard as his fifth wife–and Joanna is compelled to be on a mission to save herself and her new friend.
For true mystery lovers, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a mystery. There isn’t a definitive who-dun-it with a strong or quirky amateur detective on the chase. The mystery portion is about who is after Joanna and why. I’d connect to this historical series, and this third book in particular, as a thriller. And that’s fine by me. Nancy writes with fervor, creating excitement and movement much as if she was writing for the screen. Visually descriptive, highly detailed, and remarkably researched, Joanna’s next adventure took me on a vast ride through the expanse of Europe and held me with riveting marvel. Her chapters were concise and dramatic, so much so that there was no “I’ll stop at the next chapter for the night.” Like me, you’ll have no choice but to keep reading.
Yes, it’s from the Tudor Era, but it isn’t a romance or a drama as many on the market. It’s for men and women who appreciate the intricacies of this period, from its religious upheaval to political machinations, and you barely forget it’s any sort of proverbial Tudor Era novel, but yet feel as if a whole new view has been placed upon the page. With The Tapestry, she also manages to research and write about people and places of the period, for instance Germany’s interactions on the political spectrum, Henry VIII’s fourth wife Anne of Cleves, and as mentioned, the role of Catherine Howard. I also enjoyed her insertion of the artist Hans Holbien. Nancy made it interesting instead of scathing over this period of Henry VIII’s reign.
From first book to the third, I’ve seen a tremendous progression of Nancy’s Joanna character. At first somewhat mild and nervous, introverted and artistic, passionate yet humbled, Joanna is now much more animated and shows great fortitude, heart, and strength. Nancy’s character development of Joanna is fully dimensional and resonates with authenticity.
The Tapestry doesn’t read like a plot in the game of CLUE, or a general historical murder mystery, and it certainly isn’t a romantic drama. I’d say that with the success of this third novel, and her consistent fictional writing improvement, it reads more like Hillary Mantel’s WOLF HALL with a dash more action/adventure.
Highly recommended for fans who like a different dose of thrilling historical fiction! Suspenseful, intricate, rambunctious, and exciting, mixed with a nod to culture, art, and sociology of the sixteenth century period. You’ll begin to cheer even louder for Joanna!
The Tapestry, Synopsis
Series: Joanna Stafford, Book Three
Genre: Historical Mystery
In THE CROWN, Sister Joanna Stafford searched for a Dark Ages relic that could save her priory from Cromwell’s advancing army of destruction. In THE CHALICE, Joanna was drawn into an international conspiracy against Henry VIII himself as she struggled to learn the truth behind a prophecy of his destruction.
Now, in THE TAPESTRY, Joanna Stafford finally chooses her own destiny.
After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.
Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.
Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, naïve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.
Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.
Praise for The Tapestry~
“Illuminated by Bilyeau’s vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.” —Kirkus Reviews
“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
“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, author of The Demonologist and The Damned
“A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with a 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
Pre-Order/Buy The Tapestry~
Author Nancy Bilyeau, Biography~
Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza.
A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. THE TAPESTRY will be released in March 2015.
Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.
To enter to win one of three signed hardcover copies of The Tapestry, please complete the giveaway form below.
Direct Link to Enter: https://gleam.io/iyF4a/the-tapestry
Giveaway starts on March 16th at 12:01 a.m. EST and ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on April 3rd.
Giveaway is open to residents in North America and the UK.
You must be 18 or older to enter.
Winners will be chosen via GLEAM on April 4th and notified via email.
Winners have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
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