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The Tapestry: A Novel
     

The Tapestry: A Novel

5.0 3
by Nancy Bilyeau
 

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The next page-turner in the award-winning Joanna Stafford series takes place in the heart of the Tudor court, as the gutsy former novice risks everything to defy the most powerful men of her era.

After her priory in Dartford is closed—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a

Overview

The next page-turner in the award-winning Joanna Stafford series takes place in the heart of the Tudor court, as the gutsy former novice risks everything to defy the most powerful men of her era.

After her priory in Dartford is closed—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 whom she has twice attempted to overthrow—unbeknownst to him. She fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. And 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 one of the King’s mistresses. 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 must finally choose her fate.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

Deborah Harkness
“In Joanna Stafford, Bilyeau has given us a memorable character who is prepared to risk her life to save what she most values.”
Bruce Holsinger
“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.”
InStyle.com
"Fans of the Tudor era, you’re in for a treat."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“[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.”
Erika Robuck
“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.”
Alison Weir
“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!”
Kate Quinn
"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."
Andrew Pyper
"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."
Laura Andersen
"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."
Sam Thomas
"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."
Aly Monroe
"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."
Entertainment Weekly
Praise for The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau:
"Bilyeau sends her plucky former novice back into the intrigue-laden court of Henry VIII."
(Top Pick) RT Book Reviews
“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.”
Parade.com
“English history buffs and mystery fans alike will revel in Nancy Bilyeau's richly detailed sequel to The Crown.”
DuJour Magazine
“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!”
Booklist
"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)."
C.W. Gortner
"Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII's reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed."
M.J. Rose
"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."
Karen Harper
"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."
Kris Waldherr
"Superbly set in the political and religious turmoil between Henry VIII's queens Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves, The Chalice is a dark, twisty thriller that I couldn't put down. Nancy Bilyeau's extensive historical research makes the sense of dread, danger, and mysticism permeating this era tangible. Ex-Dominican novice Joanna Stafford is an especially compelling and sympathetic heroine—I adored her!"
Library Journal
03/01/2015
In this third series installment (The Crown; The Chalice), former Dominican novice Joanna Stafford is called to King Henry VIII's court owing to her tapestry-weaving skills. When she arrives at court, however, Joanna discovers that her weaving does not seem to be foremost on everyone's mind: seemingly everywhere she turns, someone is trying to kill her. Not even those sworn to protect her know whether it's the king who is after her blood. VERDICT The problem with this historical is that there's just too much: too much travel, too much description, too many people willing to talk to someone who is, in fact, a nobody in a 16th-century royal court. That doesn't make it less entertaining, just a bit of a quagmire to muddle through, and a novel that also leaves the reader thinking: "Why is everyone willing to talk to this person?" Still, fans of this period of English history and readers who enjoyed the first two books might consider this title.—Audrey Jones, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
2014-12-21
The adventures of Tudor-era ex-nun Joanna Stafford continue as she battles a lethal conspiracy.When we last left Joanna (The Chalice, 2013, etc.), a fictional daughter of the disgraced Stafford clan, she had retreated to Dartford, site of her former home, the Dominican priory dismantled by King Henry VIII's minister Cromwell, along with the rest of England's monasteries. There, she hopes to live in quiet retirement—no more schemes like the plot to kill King Henry in which she was once unwittingly embroiled. Her only concern is that she was prevented from marrying her beloved Edmund, an ex-friar, at the last minute when Geoffrey, the Dartford constable (another admirer) brought up an inconvenient royal edict that those who once took holy vows had to remain celibate. As she pursues her new vocation, tapestry weaving, Joanna is dismayed to receive a royal summons—King Henry needs her textile expertise at the palace of Whitehall. Immediately upon arrival, Joanna narrowly escapes kidnapping by a gruff man disguised as a page. From then on, no end of Tudor machinations and plots enmeshes her once again. Powerful relatives are pressuring teenage Catherine Howard to become the king's mistress. Joanna witnesses Cromwell weeping just before he is to be elevated to an earldom. Her friend Thomas Culpepper seems to be involved with two other courtiers in a sinister "covenant" to bring down Cromwell using witchcraft. Joanna's few allies at court include the portraitist Hans Holbein. When Joanna's life is once again threatened, Geoffrey returns and removes her to Europe, where, while supposedly acquiring tapestries for the king's collection, she will endeavor to solve several mysteries: Edmund's disappearance, the nature of the necromancy behind the Cromwell covenant, and whether or not she will finally decide between Geoffrey and Edmund. Despite much explanatory back story, this book does not really stand alone. It should be read in sequence with its two predecessors—not all that unappealing a chore Illuminated by Bilyeau's vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.
Elizabeth Fremantle
"A gripping, tightly plotted mystery, with a beguiling heroine at its heart, that vividly conjures up the ambiguity and danger of Reformation England. Bilyeau's deftness of touch and complete control over her complex material make for a truly exciting and compelling read."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781476756370
Publisher:
Touchstone
Publication date:
03/24/2015
Series:
Joanna Stafford Series
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

The Tapestry

1

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. Never to me.

Only eight days earlier I’d received the summons, calling me back to London, the city where I had seen much cruelty and death. I read it in my small house on the High Street of Dartford, where I had come to serve as a novice at its priory of Dominican sisters and hoped and prayed to prove my worthiness to take vows and become a Bride of Christ. But, two years ago, by the king’s command, our exquisite priory was torn down, and I was cast out with the others.

“This missive is from the king’s council, Sister Joanna,” said Gregory, pushing it into my hands as if it were a loaf pulled fresh from the oven that was singeing his fingertips. Gregory was a clerk in the town. He married the vintner’s daughter just after Candlemas Day, and his face soon thickened, like a hunting dog turns fat and sleek when brought into the house at season’s end. But Gregory, no matter his station now, once served as porter to our priory and continued to take an interest in my welfare. He still called me Sister. When a letter came to town bearing the royal seal, Gregory insisted on delivering it to me.

I thanked him and closed the door on the bright noise of the High Street. My fingers heavy with dread, I found a knife to break the beeswax seal. It was light brown, with these words circling the figure of a man on horseback, holding sword and shield: “Henry the Eighth, by the grace of God, of England and France and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, and on Earth, of the English and Irish Church, Supreme Head.”

I smoothed the sheet of thick, creamy vellum onto my table. “Touching on the matter of the commission of tapestry, Mistress Joanna Stafford, daughter of Sir Richard Stafford, is hereby summoned to the Palace of Whitehall, in the third week of April in the Year of Our Lord 1540, to wait upon the Keeper of the Great Wardrobe of His Majesty, King Henry the Eighth, and receive the King’s command.”

I was dismayed but could not say I was surprised. I knew full well that the king took an interest in my tapestries. Bishop Stephen Gardiner had told me, with his usual gleam of bland menace, that King Henry was pleased with The Rise of the Phoenix, the first tapestry I wove on my own after leaving the priory. I sold it to Anne of Cleves, who came to our kingdom to become the fourth wife of Henry VIII, and she made a gift of it to him. Said Bishop Gardiner, “His Majesty dislikes everything about his new queen, with one exception: the present of the phoenix tapestry.”

A week after Bishop Gardiner told me that, the first letter from the king’s court appeared. Unsigned and unsealed, it was a simple request for my presence at court to speak of tapestries.

If I were of a more sanguine humor, I might find comedy in this. Henry VIII wished to commission a tapestry from a woman who’d treasonably opposed him, not once but twice. The king now lived because of what I did—or, rather, what I failed to do. Yet he would never know any of this history, never realize how tightly our fates were intertwined. No, to Henry VIII, I was but a distant cousin with an intriguing talent for weaving.

And the truth was, I did have another tapestry planned. I’d ordered a drawing from Brussels of The Sorrow of Niobe but had not yet stretched it on the loom. I did not wish to sell this one to the royal couple. For that and other reasons, I failed to respond to the first royal summons. Beset by a troubled marriage and rumors of foreign invasion, His Majesty King Henry VIII would forget about me, surely?

It seemed he would not.

Not only was the second summons worded more forcefully, it was signed. As I stared at the precise strokes of ink slanting across the vellum, my throat tightened. Henry VIII did not write the command himself, of course. One of his secretaries composed the words. But the paper was signed by a different hand. The script was precise and clear, with each curved letter slanted to precisely the same height: Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal. The king’s chief minister, the man whom we, the faithful of God’s Holy Church, hated and feared above all other men, even the king.

I was in need of advice.

The summons carried a legal import, but I could not bring this matter to the constable of Dartford. Geoffrey Scovill was recently bereaved and still suffering. Three months ago, I stood with him beside the grave of his wife, Beatrice; weeks later, I attempted to offer further condolences, but was met with cold silence. I could not blame him, considering my role in his circumstances. He came to Dartford because of me. I knew that he’d wished to marry, and at times Geoffrey evoked strong feelings in me—equal parts longing and shame—but we often quarreled and clashed. It was Edmund Sommerville, a onetime friar in the Dominican Order, sensitive, erudite and kind, whom I chose to marry. Geoffrey then wed Beatrice, my friend and fellow novice, who had loved him from the first moment she saw him. Now Edmund was gone and Beatrice was with God. Constable Scovill and I were both alone, and lonely, but we did not turn to each other.

What should I do about the royal summons? I prayed for hours that day and far into the night, touching no food or drink. If only that feeling of certainty would fill me, the grace of God’s undoubted wisdom. But it didn’t come; I was unworthy. When morning came, I hurried up the High Street to Holy Trinity Church. There, the way forward could be revealed.

I always took a seat near the chantry chapel. Like a hand that by force of habit drifts to the ridge of a scar, my gaze lingered on the back chantry wall once beautified by a mural of Saint George. More than a year ago, the painting was whitewashed over, at the same time that the candles were snuffed and the altar stripped, but if I squinted a bit, I could still detect the outline of the saint on horseback, sword raised to fight the dragon.

Father William Mote, he who must disseminate the New Learning, preached a dry, cautious sermon that day. Ever since Parliament passed the Act of Six Articles, England no longer followed Martin Luther’s lead away from the Catholic Church. Yet, to my disappointment, there seemed no hope of returning to obedience to Rome, either. We now took some unfathomable middle path. From priests and landowners to humblest tinkers and carpenters, no one in Dartford could discern where we headed as a kingdom. But we did know that any mistake in religious practice, no matter how small, could bring savage royal punishment: a chopped hand was the best consequence.

Father William’s voice rose at the end of his sermon. “Not enough of you have opened the Great Bible kept at this very altar by instruction of Lord Privy Seal Thomas Cromwell and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer.” He pounded on the platform, his fist nearly striking the massive book resting atop it. This, at least, he was sure of. “You dishonor God, the creator of all things, if you do not shun evil and ignorance and idolatry for the profound wisdom of Scripture, written here for you in English.”

There were a few sighs, a few shrugs. The people of Dartford were a timid lot, willing to obey the king, but only a handful had been taught to read. Many could write their own names and add sums. Long stories of Scripture were beyond them.

“Christ deliver us,” whispered a woman to my left.

It was Sister Eleanor, unable to suppress her disgust over Father William’s outburst. When the king’s men closed our priory, six of the sisters, unwilling to forsake their vocation, formed a community in a house outside town. Sister Eleanor did not officiate over them as prioress—we no longer had a prioress—but she was the oldest of the sisters.

After Mass, I beckoned to her in the back of church. Startled, Sister Eleanor took a moment to follow me. She was uncomfortable in my presence, and always had been. My disposition was too riotous for her severe spirit. But it was that severity I now required.

Outside the church, it was raining, and we pressed against the wall so that its slanted roof would protect us. I slipped her the summons.

Sister Eleanor read it in seconds and made the sign of the cross.

“The king would commission you?” she asked.

“It seems so, Sister.”

“But your tapestries are a God-given talent,” she said. “To adorn the walls of the apostate king with one of your gifts . . . it is not to be borne.”

“To refuse to serve King Henry would bring criticism,” I pointed out. “Men of the court could follow. Even soldiers.”

Sister Eleanor clasped my hands. Her fingertips, callused from the labor of the nuns’ farm, dug grooves into mine, but I did not flinch. “Leave your house in town and come to us, Sister Joanna,” she urged. “You know you should live among us again—we are only safe if we are together.”

“I would not carry such risk to your house, Sister.”

Sister Eleanor said, “You would show yourself to no one, as if you were still enclosed. The king and his men would not know where you were.” Still gripping my hands, Sister Eleanor stepped back, heedless of the rain spattering her capped head. “But should they find you, we will be at your side. God in His Mercy will protect us. We will not submit.”

I gently pulled my hands from hers, murmuring, “I thank you for your valuable counsel, Sister. Christ and the Virgin be with you.”

Before I’d reached the other side of the High Street, leaping over the spreading puddles, my decision was made. I could never expose the sisters of Dartford to danger. Such hot, eager anger in Sister Eleanor’s eyes—it sprang up because she had never witnessed firsthand the wrath of the king. I had.

To face royal condemnation alone—could I do that? Certainly. I had done it before. But would I? No. For there was a pressing reason to conform to the royal will. Arthur. I wanted to once again raise the orphaned son of my cousin Margaret Bulmer.

I’d written letter after letter to Margaret’s brother, the head of our family, Lord Henry Stafford, asking that Arthur, now eight, be returned to me in Dartford. I’d sent the boy north to Stafford Castle before leaving England. Now, despite the fact that he was a difficult child to raise, I missed Arthur greatly. His ready laughter, his determined step, I ached for them in my silent house. As much as it was possible to plan in a time of chaos, I planned to lead a quiet life: weave tapestries, honor friends, submit to God’s will. It would be an honorable existence; after all, I was the daughter of Sir Richard Stafford and Isabella Montagna. Living without honor was unthinkable. But there would be no more dangerous quests or conspiracies. My fervent hope was never again to hear the word prophecy, nor to find myself among spies, seers, and necromancers. That was the world of fear, of darkness. I wanted only light.

In devoting myself to another person, to Arthur, if I could bring that about, I would be truly blessed. I wanted to serve Arthur, too, in a way that only I, the guardian of the secrets of his parentage, could. It was so important that he learn how precious his mother was, learn of her kindness and her courage. I feared that as Arthur grew older, the horror of her death—burned to death for treason in Smithfield before the mob—would overshadow all.

At first, Cousin Henry refused to return him—stating again that he had never understood why my father placed Arthur with me, an unmarried woman of no prospects, rather than with Henry’s own large family—but of late I’d detected a softening. And he let slip in one letter that Arthur missed me. If I were the holder of a royal commission in tapestries, the head of my own budding enterprise, my cousin might relent. He hated trade, but he hated failure more.

“Your storm and fury”—that is how Beatrice once described my nature. But, for the sake of that small boy, I would quiet my storms. Now that I’d been forced to accept the triumph of King Henry and Thomas Cromwell, there would be no cause for anger. I’d travel to Whitehall, see no one but the wardrobe master who managed the king’s tapestries, and slip back home.

Thus I resolved to go on this journey. How could I know that it was not a journey but a dance? I was taking the first step forward on a vast dance floor, and on the other side, a partner would emerge from the darkest shadows to meet me—a partner who hungered for nothing more than for my death.

Meet 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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The Tapestry: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
booknerdDS More than 1 year ago
Copy received from author for an honest review My humble review: First, I LOVED “The Crown” the first book in the Joanna Stafford series.  This was my first introduction to Historical Fiction and I absolutely loved it and continued to read Historical Fiction because of “The Crown.” It is still, hands down, one of my favorites.  I have to bow my head down in shame because I did not read “The Chalice”-yet.  Which I’m sorry because I can tell by “The Tapestry” I missed out on many good plots.  When I saw “The Tapestry” I became obsessed with Joanna Stafford and I couldn’t wait to find out how Bilyeau developed her story.  I started “The Tapestry” with anticipation and excitement. Let me say, it does not disappoint. I LOVED “The Tapestry.”  It was an instant five star rating for me.  Why? First, I loved the ending. I’m a romantic at heart, the ending took me by surprise and I loved that Joanna finally had a happy ending.  (I personally hope that Bileyeau has more in store for her.)  So, yes I loved the ending. I loved Joanna. She is such a rich character.  A no longer nun, left without her Dominican order. When the story begins she is summoned by Henry VIII, yes! First, wow! She is invited to create a Tapistry, which she has a talent for doing.  Joanna is terrified that the King knows or will know that she played a hand in trying to displace him as king. She is terrified of his advisor more notably Cromwell. His presence is like a ghost.  So aside from the before mentioned, I loved how Bilyeau portrayed Henry VIII. He really is a fascinating character.  I learned little tidbits that I had not known before.  One being the sores on his legs. Second, when Joanna visits the King he is married to Anne of Cleaves but is also having an affair with Katherine Howard. I loved how the author introduced these subplots.  While Joanna is at court she is fearing for her life and rightly so.  Finally, I loved seeing the story unfold through Joanna’s eyes. I loved the first person point of view and I really enjoyed how she developed different relationships, most notably with the future queen Katherine Howard. My only grievance is what to look forward to from Bilyeau.  I hope that we see more of Joanna and I would love to see what other pieces of history she has to tell us about! My heartfelt and sincerest literary thanks to the author for not only allowing me to read this beautiful story but making it so wonderful!
wordsandpeace More than 1 year ago
With multiple intertwined threads and an unusual heroine, The Tapestry provides the reader with a unique view on the Tudor world. Art, politics, and the occult combine into a fascinating historical novel rich in suspense. What not to love? Having read and enjoyed a lot The Crown and The Chalice, I’m totally thrilled to be part of this tour and to present to you the third installment of the Joanna Staford series, as well as an interview with the author herself! If you are tired of some lengthy Tudor series where everything and everyone is too predictable, no fear with The Tapestry! With a unique main character, this historical novel is packed with fascinating information and irresistible twists and turns. Joanna Staford was a novice in Dartford. But her Dominican monastery did not survive the wrath of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell: it was closed two years before this book opens. She has been living a simple quasi-monastic life in the city of Dartford when she is summoned by no less than the King himself, to be the keeper of his wardrobe, that is also the manager of his tapestries. Henry seems to be interested in her talent at tapestry making as well. But as Joanna makes her way to Whitehall, she has the bad feeling someone is following her. When a page proposes to escort her, she really knows something doesn’t feel right. From then on, she is stuck in unknown woes and life threatening political intrigues that will even lead her to foreign countries where more dangers are lurking! Like a tapestry, this book is made up of multiple layers and threads, and it was absolutely fascinating to follow them all. With unexpected twists and turns, it felt like working on the back side of a tapestry: only at the end when the job is done, can you turn and see your work revealed. Only at the end will you have all the elements of this book come together. I really enjoyed indeed how all the themes were intertwined and keeping the reader in suspense. Let me highlight a few of the leads: the world of art, with tapestries and paintings - the painter Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497–1543) is quite present The Tudor political milieu, with its main characters: Henry VIII (described both typically with his crazy angry outbursts and as a weak man afraid of losing power), Cromwell (also pictured with weaknesses), Catherine Howard, Jane Rochford, Bishop Gardiner, Henry Howard, Norfolk, French ambassador Chapuys, and others The occult world quite linked to the royals at the time. We hear about Nostradamus, Paracelsus, Orobasa, and Cornelius Agrippa has a major key role And Joanna’s personal relationships: whom can she really trust in this dangerous milieu? All along the book, Joanna evolves and matures. Prevented by civil law from marrying former friar Edmund after she left, what will she do when she meets him again? Is their connection strong enough to decide to restart their life together? Along those lines, I enjoyed the way Nancy Bilyeau offered gentle reminders of the two previous books all along. I think this would make this book perfectly work as a standalone, although of course you will enjoy it even more if you’ve read the first two volumes. I would like to highlight that Catherine Howard, through Joanna’s friendship, is presented as both naïve and victim, not as the seductress I have met in some other books on the period.
SuperReaderChick More than 1 year ago
I was blessed enough to receive an ARC of this book to read and review. I loved the first two books in the trilogy (The Crown & The Chalice) and this final installment stayed true to form. Bilyeau weaves one hell of a story! She continues to give you a little bit here and a little bit there to keep you on the edge of your seat. I love the mystery and danger that always seems to find and follow Joanna Stafford. I also love the blend of historical events alongside the lives of the fictional characters. It really is written seamlessly. I was pleased at how Bilyeau chose to conclude the story and bring peace to her characters. I HIGHLY recommend this book, and her others, to anyone who loves a blend of history and mystery. Bilyeau will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the final chapter.
VicG More than 1 year ago
Nancy Bilyeau in her new book, “The Tapestry” Book Three in the Joanna Stafford series published by Touchstone brings us another adventure with Joanna Stafford. From the back cover: In the midst of England’s Reformation, a young novice will risk everything to defy the most powerful men of her era. Political murder. Sexual intrigue. In the court of Henry VIII, does Sister Joanna Stafford have a prayer? After her priory in Dartford is closed—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 whom she has twice attempted to overthrow—unbeknownst to him. She fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. And 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 one of the King’s mistresses. 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 must finally choose her fate. Joanna Stafford is back and this adventure is even more dangerous than the first. History, danger, mystery, action, adventure and thrills abound in “The Tapestry”. Get ready for a page-turning, thrill ride. Ms. Bilyeau gets us caught up in the story and the characters lives to the point that we actually hate to say goodbye to them when the book ends. It really feels as if Ms. Bilyeau transports back to the time of The English Reformation it feels that authentic. Joanna is still one of the most unique and personable characters and she is just a delight to read about. I liked this book very much and am hoping that Ms. Bilyeau will give us another adventure with Joanna. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Touchstone. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”