Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley/Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Read: March 18, 2015

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, naïve 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.

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Henry VIII seated beneath a tapestry cloth of state
circa 1545.  Artist unknown.
I've a confession folks, one I'm almost afraid to admit. I love historic fiction and there isn't a lot that doesn't interest me, but the truth is I'm all but burnt out on Henry VIII. I wish it were otherwise, but I've grown reluctant to pick up pieces involving the mercurial monarch and his scandal ridden court. With so many titles on the market it's difficult to imagine a writer bringing anything new to the table and I know sex sells, but I'm frankly bored with the salacious twists writers of this particular period have come to favor.

Having said that, one might wonder why I'd tackle Nancy Bilyeau's The Tapestry. I myself questioned my sanity on accepting the title for review, but something in the back of my mind prompted me to put my doubts aside. Make no mistake, I waited till the last possible moment to crack the book open, but when I finally did, I conceded my skepticism had been misplaced. 

The market may be overrun, but Bilyeau's work has a feel and flavor few can rival. Her attention to detail is practically flawless and I love the balance she strikes between personal and political drama. Joanna Stafford is not the typical Tudor heroine and Bilyeau never loses site of that. The character's background and convictions dictate her actions and I like that her principles often find her at odds with the royal family. Bilyeau's characterizations of historic figures like Henry VIII, Catherine Howard, Jane Boleyn and Thomas Culpeper defy the stereotypes and bring a refreshing degree of originality to well-known events while her illustration of textiles and the art of tapestry add an unexpected glimpse at a fascinating cultural element of sixteenth century life. 

At the end of the day, I'm glad I took exception for the third installment of Bilyeau's Joanna Stafford series. Like its predecessors, the book proved both original and entertaining and while there were a few slow moments, I can't say the time I spent with this piece left me disappointed. 

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As much as it was possible to plan in a time of chaos, I planned to lead a quiet life: weave tapestries, honor friends, submit to God’s will. It would be an honorable existence; after all, I was the daughter of Sir Richard Stafford and Isabella Montagna. Living without honor was unthinkable. But there would be no more dangerous quests or conspiracies. My fervent hope was never again to hear the word prophecy, nor to find myself among spies, seers, and necromancers. That was the world of fear, of darkness. I wanted only light.
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Check Out All the Stops on Nancy Bilyeau's 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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