Bilyeau's venture into Tudor territory veers away from Henry VIII to explore a more obscure aspect of his reign, the dismantling of England's monasteries and convents.
A young noblewoman, Joanna Stafford, is brought by her father to Dartford Priory, where she enters the novitiate. Soon thereafter, thanks to a foolhardy attempt to render aid to her condemned cousin Margaret, Joanna and her father are confined to the Tower, where they languish for several months. Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, engineers Joanna's release and return to Dartford, but not without extracting from her a terrible admission: concealed somewhere at the priory is a sacred relic, the Crown of King Athelstan, England's last great Saxon monarch. Her father will remain in the Tower until Joanna locates and secures the Crown for Gardiner, who, he says, intends to use its mysterious power to, somehow, thwart King Henry's rampage against Roman Catholicism and its religious orders. Read full book review >