Tuesday, January 10, 2012
An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father—and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell’s ruthless terror. The year is 1537. . .
Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin’s side. Arrested for interfering with the king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.
The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain.
But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a sensitive young monk, Brother Edmund, to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna’s father alive. At Malmesbury, secrets of the crown are revealed that bring to light the fates of the Black Prince, Richard the Lionhearted, and Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, Arthur. The crown’s intensity and strength are beyond the earthly realm and it must not fall into the wrong hands.
With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must now decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family, and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England’s past.
Believable characters, heart-wrenching scenes, and a strong determined heroine named Joanna Stafford make this a very engrossing read. Author Nancy Bilyeau has penned a fascinating story set during the Henry the VIII's reign when angry at the Catholic Church, he he dissolved monasteries and religious houses, scattering nuns and priests throughout the country. Although the novel is set during the Tudor period, it is not about the Tudors. Rather, it is a historical mystery that centers around a fascinating search for a crown. I very much enjoyed the historical facts surrounding King Athelstan and the crown, the ancient relic that once belonged to him.
The plot had plenty of intrigue and emotion. I enjoyed the characters, especially the nuns who were not always what I expected and made wonderful antagonists. Excellent writing, plenty of historical detail to really make the era come alive, and a tale with enough twists and turns to keep me reading to the very end. For those who are tired of the Tudors but love the era, this book is perfect. A truly enjoyable story well put together! There is a sequel, and I eagerly await it!