*The following was a review written for a publication, but I would like to say bluntly before going into that review that this book is NOT straight historical fiction. It's historical mystery. It hits every note in the mystery genre right down to the plot structure and, while the plot does wander in the woods at times, I think mystery readers who like unusual sleuths might enjoy this novel, which appears to be first in a series. Okay. Anyway. Also, visit my blog and say hi! http://infinitereads.com/ *
Nancy Bilyeau's The Crown stands apart from other novels about Tudor England. Rather than delivering another rehash of royal intrigue, Bilyeau focuses on the men and women of the cloth whose way of life was destroyed by the suppression of English monasteries under Henry VIII. Dominican novice Joanna Stafford wants only to spend her life in service to God at secluded Dartford Priory. As a result of Henry's conflict with the Catholic Church, however, the king's men are ransacking monasteries and executing Britons loyal to the pope. When her cousin is burned at the stake for treason, Joanna attends in hopes of recovering the body and is shocked when her father also appears, then tampers with the execution.
Soon she and her father are both locked in the infamous Tower of London. There, Stephen Gardiner, a powerful bishop, tells Joanna she must return to her convent to locate a fabled relic--the Athelstan crown--or see her father tortured to death. (In the mid-10th century, Athelstan became the first British king to wear a crown rather than a helmet.) But even Datford harbors danger, as the murder of a fellow novice's father puts the priory at risk of dissolution. Joanna's only hope is to place her trust in the two priests Gardiner sent to assist her and pray their motives are pure.
An exciting tale of one woman's bravery and commitment to her vocation, The Crown will appeal equally to lovers of historical fiction and mystery. While it has all the intrigue associated with the Tudor court, Bilyeau's unconventional setting breathes fresh life into a much-explored period in British history.
***This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness Readers Edition. Sign up for this free and awesome newsletter at http://www.shelf-awareness.com for the latest news and reviews! This review refers to an ARC provided by Shelf Awareness.***