An astonishing debut in historical fiction, hailed as “part The Da Vinci Code, part The Other Boleyn Girl,” (Woman’s Day), The Crown follows one nun’s dangerous quest to find an ancient relic during Cromwell’s reign of terror.
Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the 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.
While Joanna is in the Tower, the ruthless Bishop of Winchester forces her to spy for him: to save her father’s life she must find an ancient relic—a crown so powerful, it may possess the ability to end the Reformation.
With Cromwell’s troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must decide who she can trust 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.
Bilyeau's debut tackles the fracas that ensued when King Henry VIII began persecuting Catholics and other groups he saw as a threat to his reign. Joanna Stafford, a novice nun from a fallen noble family, defies the rules of her convent and travels to London to bear witness to the burning at the stake of her favorite cousin, Margaret, who has been convicted of treason. At the execution, Joanna encounters her father, who hastens Margaret's death with gunpowder. Father and daughter are taken to the infamous Tower of London, where Joanna is held for months until an ambitious bishop, Stephen Gardiner, threatens her father with torture and death unless Joanna returns to her priory on a covert mission to retrieve a possibly apocryphal royal crown purported to be hidden on priory grounds. Despite Bilyeau's intriguing main story line, the narrative becomes sidetracked by a subplot involving Lord Chester, the boorish father of the priory's Sister Christina. Unfortunately, stock crazy characters and some glaring plot holes derail a promising story about one woman's love for God and family.
Excellent read. Loved every part of it.