Nancy Bilyeau had me at “set in Tudor England” but my desire to read this series–The Crown, The Chalice, and The Tapestry–was cemented by the fact that Alison Weir herself gave the books a glowing review. That’s enough for me!
The series follows a woman of the nobility who attempts to take vows at a priory just before the Dissolution. While still a novice, her house–like most others in England at that time–is disbanded and Joanna is thrown into all sorts of adventures and intrigues surrounding the court of her cousin, Henry VIII.
With excellent historical detail and strong pacing, the books manage to pull off historical fiction and good mysteries, while exploring an aspect of Tudor England–the dissolution of Catholic religious orders–that is not exhaustively treated in historical fiction about the era. I’m not sure if more Joanna Stafford mysteries are planned, but I hope so, as I liked the character and Bilyeau’s writing style.
The books are well written but not overly demanding, making them an excellent choice for your beach week or any time you need a gripping but enjoyable read. They are a series, so I’d recommend reading them all and in order. They might stand well on their own, but the stories do build on each other so you might not get as much out of the later books if you don’t read them as a series.
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