Book Tour Review: The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau

Thursday, April 2, 2015
Title: The Tapestry
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Genre: historical fiction, mystery, thriller
Series: Joanna Stafford #3
Pages: 400
Published: March 24 2015
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4/5

The next page-turner in the award-winning Joanna Stafford series takes place in the heart of the Tudor court, as the gutsy former novice risks everything to defy the most powerful men of her era.

After her Dominican priory in Dartford closed forever—collateral damage in tyrannical King Henry VIII’s quest to overthrow the Catholic Church—Joanna resolves to live a quiet and honorable life weaving tapestries, shunning dangerous quests and conspiracies. Until she is summoned to Whitehall Palace, where her tapestry weaving has drawn the King’s attention.

Joanna is uncomfortable serving the King, and fears for her life in a court bursting with hidden agendas and a casual disregard for the virtues she holds dear. Her suspicions are confirmed when an assassin attempts to kill her moments after arriving at Whitehall.

Struggling to stay ahead of her most formidable enemy yet, an unknown one, she becomes entangled in dangerous court politics. Her dear friend Catherine Howard is rumored to be the King’s mistress. Joanna is determined to protect young, beautiful, na├»ve Catherine from becoming the King’s next wife and, possibly, victim.

Set in a world of royal banquets and feasts, tournament jousts, ship voyages, and Tower Hill executions, this thrilling tale finds Joanna in her most dangerous situation yet, as she attempts to decide the life she wants to live: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier. Joanna Stafford must finally choose.

Joanna Stafford's life has been as unlikely as her voice is distinct under Nancy Bilyeau's capable hands. A historical series that pivots on the life of an ex-nun novice, Joanna's continued adventures are still unpredictable, diverting, and harrowing. The plot of the third novel is of somewhat less political urgency and instead focuses more closely on Joanna's personal life and the fallout of her actions in The Crown and The Chalice. There is still plenty of action and adventure to be had, in England and out of it, but this feels like the most personal novel yet for the main character in the series.

Politics and religion are two themes that have readily and prominently stood out for The Crown, The Chalice, and now for The Tapestry. The  English Reformation was a major event for the people at the time and so it is still for the characters here. Be Joanna at Court or in Dartford or elsewhere, her life is constantly effected by these two forces in unexpected (and often unfortunate) ways. Caught between Henry VIII's decrees and her own personal ecclesiastical calling, Joanna struggles to find a real, fulfilling life for herself in Henry's England. The romance(s), with Joanna torn between a religious man and a (comparatively) more political man only further illustrate how unsettled her mindset can be.

Some authors dive deep into research before beginning their novels or series and it shows. I am half convinced that Nancy Bilyeau is a 500-year old vampire because she knows this era and these people so well she must have lived it. The amount of historical detail is impressive. This is an author that absolutely knows her stuff across the board. The scope and breadth of her information is extensive and only serves to further enhance both the atmosphere and tone of the novel. And none of it is heavy-handed. Even the most knotty political scheme isn't relayed to the reader in infodump or in clumsy exposition.

Well-paced and excellently plotted, The Tapestry is a fresh addition to the Tudor historical fiction subgenre. Finding an unlikely voice keeps the story both authentic and original without losing the drama of the conflict or the more well-known characters. I did have issues with the final part of the novel, however. Compared to the first part of the book, it felt hasty. Joanna makes some major decisions quite fast and that didn't feel right with how she has operated for hundreds of pages.

Small quibbles aside, the conclusion to the Joanna Stafford series was excellent. Well-rounded and vibrant characters populate a vividly-imagined and detailed Tudor England, dealing with religion and love and politics in compelling manners. The writing is clear and concise, the atmosphere is enveloping, and the plotting is deft. If this is the last time that Joanna ever has to skulk and sleuth to protect those she loves, it was a great way to send her off. This was a memorable and enjoyable series and I hope to see Nancy Bilyeau's considerable talent for writing in print again soon.

Praise for The Tapestry

"Nancy Bilyeau's passion for history infuses her books and transports us back to the dangerous world of Tudor England. Vivid characters and gripping plots are at the heart of this wonderful trilogy, and this third book will not fail to thrill readers. Warmly recommended!" - bestselling author Alison Weir

“Illuminated by Bilyeau’s vivid prose, minor players of Tudor England emerge from the shadows.” —Kirkus Reviews

“In THE TAPESTRY, Nancy Bilyeau brilliantly captures both the white-hot religious passions and the brutal politics of Tudor England. It is a rare book that does both so well.” —Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife’s Tale

“In spite of murderous plots, volatile kings, and a divided heart, Joanna Stafford manages to stay true to her noble character. Fans of Ken Follett will devour Nancy Bilyeau’s novel of political treachery and courageous love, set amid the endlessly fascinating Tudor landscape.” —Erika Robuck, author of Hemingway’s Girl

“These aren’t your mother’s nuns! Nancy Bilyeau has done it again, giving us a compelling and wonderfully realized portrait of Tudor life in all its complexity and wonder. A nun, a tapestry, a page-turning tale of suspense: this is historical mystery at its finest.” —Bruce Holsinger, author of A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire

“A supremely deft, clever and pacy entertainment. This is Nancy Bilyeau’s most thrilling—and enlightening—novel in the Joanna Stafford series yet.” —Andrew Pyper, author of The Demonologist and The Damned

“A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with a sense of dread and oppression lurking behind the royal glamour; in her descriptions and characterizations… Bilyeau breathes life into history.” —Laura Andersen, author of The Boleyn King

US Publication Date: March 24, 2015
UK Publication Date: April 24, 2015

Pre-Order/Buy The Tapestry

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About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal. She is currently the executive editor of DuJour magazine. Her screenplays have placed in several prominent industry competitions. Two scripts reached the semi-finalist round of the Nicholl Fellowships of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her screenplay “Zenobia” placed with the American Zoetrope competition, and “Loving Marys” reached the finalist stage of Scriptapalooza. A native of the Midwest, she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. THE CROWN, her first novel, was published in 2012; the sequel, THE CHALICE, followed in 2013. THE TAPESTRY will be released in March 2015.

Nancy lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Stay in touch with her on Twitter at @tudorscribe. For more information or to sign up for Nancy’s Newsletter please visit her official website.

The Tapestry Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 16
Review at Peeking Between the Pages
Review & Interview at Words and Peace

Tuesday, March 17
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at The Eclectic Reader
Review at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, March 18
Review at Writing the Renaissance
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, March 19
Review at A Book Geek
Review & Interview at Tea at Trianon
Interview at Writing the Renaissance

Friday, March 20
Review at Impressions in Ink

Monday, March 23
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, March 24
Review at The Lit Bitch
Review at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, March 25
Review at Luxury Reading
Guest Post at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, March 26
Review at She Reads Novels

Monday, March 30
Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Tuesday, March 31
Review at The True Book Addict
Guest Post at Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, April 1
Review at Library of Clean Reads
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, April 2
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Friday, April 3
Review at Layered Pages
Review & Guest Post at Always With a Book

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