The Crown

The Crown

Audiobook CD - 2012
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When novitiate Joanna Stafford learns her cousin is about to be burned at the stake for rebelling against Henry VIII, she flees Dartford Priory. But when she and her father are arrested, she finds herself a pawn in a deadly power struggle.
Publisher: Ashland, OR : Blackstone Audio, [2012]
Edition: Unabridged.
ISBN: 9781455131969
Branch Call Number: CDAUDIO MYSTERY Bilyeau Nancy 02/2012
Characteristics: 12 audio discs (ca. 14.2 hr.) :,digital ;,4 3/4 in.
Additional Contributors: Barber, Nicola 1978-


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Jun 26, 2019

Why have I left this book sitting on my to-read shelf for six years? That's somewhat of a rhetorical question, actually. I generally shy away from Tudor fiction...too many characters, too much court drama, too many women used as bargaining chips. However, The Crown was a treasure - intriguing, of course, but also told from the perspective of a strong, brave, risk-taking female lead - and a nun, at that! Plus, Nancy Bilyeau came at the period from a unique vantage point, with the focus on Henry VIII's hostility toward the "old ways" of religion, which included a prolonged shutting down of centuries-old monasteries that left nuns and monks to find new lives and professions.

The book begins as Sister Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun who hails from a once-prominent family with ties to King Henry and his court, leaves Dartford Priory without permission to travel to be present when her beloved cousin, Lady Margaret Bulmer, is burned at the stake for treason. In the melee that ensues, Sister Joanna is arrested and jailed in the Tower of London. There, she becomes a pawn of Bishop Stephen Gardiner of Winchester, who forces her to watch her father being tortured on the infamous rack. Gardiner tells her he'll release her father and intimates that he also can influence King Henry to halt the dissolution of the monasteries and priories (or at least some of them) if Joanna will find and give him the Crown of Athelstan, an ancient religious relic worn by Athelstan, an early English king. Gardiner believes the crown is hidden at Dartford Priory. The bishop arranges to have Joanna sent back to Dartford with two friars, Brothers Edmund and Richard.

Once back at Dartford, in the midst of Joanna trying to find the crown, a local nobleman (Lord Chester) and his wife - whose daughter also is a nun at the priory - attend a feast at Dartford. The drunk nobleman behaves despicably, and his wife begs for the prioress to allow them to spend the night in the priory's guest quarters. The nobleman's murdered body is discovered the next morning, and the mystery deepens further. Shortly thereafter, another nun, the tapestry mistress who never speaks, tries to communicate a clue to Lord Chester's murder to Joanna, but immediately is overcome with sickness and dies.

Joanna must navigate a web of deceit, secrets and treachery without knowing whether she can trust anyone or whether Athelstan's crown even exists. She also must hold onto her own principles and faith, while dealing with pain from her own past, a shocking revelation by her father and her sadness over the dissolution of the priory inhabitants' way of life.

This book was an excellent mystery that brought to life some historical characters, as well as some purely fictional ones, including Brother Edmund and the entirely likable constable, Geoffrey Scoville. I enjoyed this book so much that, before I was halfway through it, I'd already checked out its sequel, The Chalice, from my local library.

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