Sarah Kennedy is a professor of English at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia and the author of seven books of poems. She holds a PhD in Renaissance Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing. Sarah has received grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts and is currently a contributing editor for Shenandoah.
The Altarpieceby Sarah Kennedy
It is 1535, and in the tumultuous years of King Henry VIII's break from Rome, the religious houses of England are being seized by force. Twenty-year-old Catherine Havens is a foundling and the adopted daughter of the prioress of the Priory of Mount Grace in a small Yorkshire village. Catherine, like her adoptive mother, has a gift for healing, and she is widely sought… See more details below
It is 1535, and in the tumultuous years of King Henry VIII's break from Rome, the religious houses of England are being seized by force. Twenty-year-old Catherine Havens is a foundling and the adopted daughter of the prioress of the Priory of Mount Grace in a small Yorkshire village. Catherine, like her adoptive mother, has a gift for healing, and she is widely sought and admired for her knowledge. Catherine's hopes for a place at court have been dashed by the king's divorce, and she has reluctantly taken the veil. When the priory's costly altarpiece goes missing, Catherine and her friend Ann Smith find themselves under increased suspicion. King Henry VIII's soldiers have not had their fill of destruction, and when they return to Mount Grace to destroy the priory, Catherine must choose between the sacred calling of her past and the man who may represent her country's future.
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I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I love historical fictions, and this book delivers!! It is 1535 in Tudor England and King Henry VIII is creating the Church of England and his soldiers are overtaking the Catholic Churches, and Catherine Havens is hiding all of the important papers and other items that she does not want to be taken from Mount Grace (the Convent that she is raised in). This scavenging is how we are introduced to this story…and, it is exciting from the first page! An altarpiece is missing, but there is much more to this story, than the Madonna and the baby statue… Not only does Sarah Kennedy know her history, she also creates a story that will stay with you. I was in awe of Catherine and her dignity, and honor. She is a woman that believes in herbal remedies, and does not want to be taken for a witch. In these times, to have those beliefs is very difficult and Catherine tries to hold her secrets in. Will she be able to? Will the Altarpiece be found? And, will there be a personal cost? Sarah Kennedy is a talented writer, and I am excited to read the other two books in this Cross and Crown Series.
I received a review copy of this book for free from Knox Publishing, and I was unbelievably excited to read it - a new Tudor historical fiction? Count me in! Unfortunately, to say I couldn't get into it is an understatement. I struggled from the very beginning, with nuns who swore, were petty & cruel to their fellow sisters, and were among the nastiest people I've ever read - yet they were supposed to be nuns, and good people? I'm not saying nuns aren't humans, don't make mistakes, and I'm sure they probably swear occasionally, too, but the cut-throat general meanness they shared? And what really bothers me is Kennedy could have written much the same story, but instead of calling them nuns, just called them townspeople, and the story would have been so much more believable. I just couldn't get beyond that. I even tried the skimming trick, thinking that once the book got going I would enjoy it more, but I just couldn't finish this book. Very disappointed.
This book explores the relationship when Henry VIII breaks from Rome to create the Church of England. He demands that all Catholic priests and nuns renounce their ties to the Pope and embrace his new religion. Catherine Havens, a young nun and healer, who lives in a small convent in Mount Grace faces the unimaginable when the King's soldiers come to Mount Grace to turn the nuns out of their abbey and to seize anything of value. The nuns try to hide as many valuables as they can and refuse to open the abbey doors to nobleman Lord Robert Overton and his soldiers when they come to claim their spoils. Catherine is torn. She's been at the abbey since infancy when Cristina took her in and raised her, but her real passion is the healing arts. When she nurses Robert's brother with the pox back to health, her loyalties and faith are severely tested. The story explores her struggle between her growing feelings for William and her loyalty to the prioress and her vows. The book is well researched and a host of secondary characters immerses the reader in what life was like in 1535 England. I did find the story a little slow in parts, but the character of Catherine is compelling and will keep you turning the pages. I received the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Mysteries, history, longing and love: Mysteries lie at the heart of this novel and blend and weave throughout the tale of a missing altarpiece. Mysteries of faith are set against the longings of a woman’s heart. Mysteries of religion and politics take sides in a war against witchcraft with wisdom trapped in the middle. In classic style, this “wisdom” is a woman, Catherine, of unknown parentage, trained in healing, betrayed by the world’s rapid changing, and finding herself as she journeys to find the stolen treasure. Henry VIII has broken with Rome and married a new wife. Lutherans and Papists are equally scorned, and reform is the cry of soldiers who steal and destroy. But the lord of this convent had his eyes on one valuable wooden altarpiece, and when murder follows on from theft, almost everyone could fall under suspicion. Catherine’s skills in medicine may heal the lord’s sick brother, but will her skills in reading people be enough to find the treasure and keep her safe? Uncovering past present and future, the Catherine-who-follows becomes a Catherine ready to set out and lead. Meanwhile the reader enters a world of convincing people, authentic relationships, fascinating medical practices, and genuine history. The dissolution of the monasteries is the background for a deeply involving and beautifully revealing historical novel, where the characters genuinely belong to their time, and their natures belong to us all. Disclaimer: I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publishers.