“Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical detail throughout,
but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“An amazing first novel, filled with excitement, intrigue, and espionage.”
—Katherine Neville, author of The Eight
“This book will appeal to fans of Dan Brown and Philippa Gregory.”
“This fast-paced debut delivers Tudor intrigue and mystical thrills in one satisfying package.”
“Strong character development, realistic historical detail, and an atmosphere of pervasive tension
coupled to a fast-paced plot make it compulsively readable.”
About The Book
In this captivating historical thriller, debut novelist Nancy Bilyeau brings to life the horrors and heroics of the English Reformation through the eyes of Joanna Stafford, a young aristocratic nun who must risk everything to protect her family and her faith. THE CROWN intertwines history and legend as Joanna becomes an unlikely political pawn who must find an ill-omened relic in order to save her father’s life.
It is May 1537 when Joanna, a Dominican novice, learns her beloved cousin, Lady Margaret Bulmer, is condemned to burn at the stake for high treason against King Henry VIII. Breaking the sacred rules of enclosure, she runs away from Dartford Priory and travels to London in disguise, resolved to provide spiritual sustenance as Margaret meets her cruel fate as disgraced wife of a rebel leader. When the unexpected appearance of Joanna’s father leads to chaos, both are arrested for interfering with royal justice and condemned to the Tower of London.
Joanna’s father is brutally tortured on the orders of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, who leads a faction determined to save England’s monasteries from Cromwell’s army of destruction. In order to free him, Joanna must submit to Gardiner’s will and reveal a sworn secret of Dartford Priory shared by the forsaken Queen Katherine of Aragon. She returns to Dartford with a mission: Find the long-hidden crown—rumored to be concealed in the priory—worn by the Saxon King Athelstan during the battle that first united Britain in A.D. 937. Gardiner believes the crown itself possesses a mystical power that will halt the Reformation.
Despite help from Brother Edmund, a kind yet troubled friar, and Sister Helen, the silent tapestry mistress whose weavings have much to tell, Joanna discovers little but betrayals and murder at Dartford and must flee. With time running out, her hunt for the crown leads from royal castles to Stonehenge and finally to the very tomb of King Athelstan under Malmesbury Abbey. There Joanna learns the dangerous truth of her quest, a secret dating back to Golgotha and the relics of the Passion—and must decide how far she is willing to go to preserve a way of life that she passionately loves.
About The Author
NANCY BILYEAU is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.