The Crown

Joanna Stafford, #1

Five Stars for Historical Mystery Debut

I’ve never been much on historical of any kind – thriller, mystery, romance. Oh, I’ll read non-fiction on the Tudor family and Henry the VIII, but that’s about as far as my interest goes. After reading Nancy Bilyeau’s THE CROWN, however, I feel as if all that might change. Ms. Bilyeau has given this reader a new appreciation for the historical thriller – no easy feat, I assure you.

It’s May 1537 and Joanna Stafford, a young Dominican novice, has just learned her beloved cousin is condemned to burn at the stake for treason. Breaking her orders rules of enclosure, she travels to London to offer comfort to her cousin, only to tumble into a situation loaded with intrigue and mystical thrills.

THE CROWN is a classy thrill ride from start to finish, marked by Bilyeau’s strong sense of character development and historical detail. Reading it almost made me feel as if I were on the quest with Joanna, back in 1537…and believe me, that’s quite a feat. History buffs will appreciate the painstaking detail, while mystery fans will enjoy Joanna’s desperate search for a lost religious relic. Highly recommended by this hard to satisfy reviewer.

Book Blurb for The Crown

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.

Night Owl Reviews Jan, 2012 5.00