QAB Book Review: “The Tapestry” by Nancy Bilyeau

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TheTapestry

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Exquisite in detail, painstaking in craftsmanship, and blinding bright in color, the immense and glittering woolen with gold and silver thread tapestries collected by King Henry VIII were the most treasured and luxurious art form of the Tudor Era. While Hans Holbein the Younger was paid a mere 40£ a year for his genius in portraiture, King Henry, eighth of his name, gladly paid thousands of pounds for each of his exhaustive inventory of tapestries, one and all telling the story of Henry’s identification with historic, religious and mythical figures, one and all taking the breath away from his wives, mistresses, ministers, courtiers and subjects of his realm. Among those in awe of King Henry VIII’s tapestry collection was Joanna Stafford, lead protagonist of Nancy Bilyeau’s third in a trilogy of brilliant novels The Tapestry.

As established in Nancy Bilyeau’s previous novels The Crown and The Chalice, Joanna Stafford, niece of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, was a prelate nun at Dartford Priory. Displaced like many clerical men and women in the era by the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Nancy’s third novel, The Tapestry, brilliantly continues to draw the reader into Joanna’s incredible life journey, and in doing so, crafts a downright bone-chilling thriller of a woman stalked, hunted by mysterious forces out to kill her – not only for what she had done, but also most pointedly for what she left undone. A clear shift from The Crown and The Chalice, both novels depicting Joanna Stafford chasing her destiny, The Tapestry instead takes the reader on a fast paced thrill ride of Joanna being chased, her very survival reliant on her courage, intuition and wits, as well as those of her cherished friends, some fictional, others familiar.

As the novel opens, Joanna Stafford immediately encounters a major dilemma. She receives a letter from Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal. Called to court to craft a tapestry for King Henry VIII himself, Joanna’s quiet and peaceful life is disrupted. Once she leaves her beloved town of Dartford, Joanne quickly becomes the quarry of her unknown enemies. Boom! Just like that, in less words mind you, the action filled plot unfolds. As also true in The Crown and The Chalice, the plot is nothing short of master class story telling, blending the lives of expertly developed fictional characters and well known historical figures. Descriptive detail is spot on historically accurate, demonstrating exhaustive research and an outstanding aptitude for the era. Far more so than the previous two novels, historical figures of the era, such as Hans Holbein, Thomas Culpepper, Henry Howard and others I will leave unsaid, step up to take center stage. Unforced and plot driven, Nancy’s characterizations of people so well known to many Tudorphiles do not disappoint.

Beyond the clear merits of all three novels, each read on its own a delightful journey, I personally enjoyed witnessing Nancy Bilyeau’s craftsmanship as a novelist develop with each new work she completes. The Tapestry shows her enhanced attention to capturing the emotion and humanity of not only Joanna Stafford and her friends, but also the historical figures they encounter. Through this enhanced focus, Joanna now sees not only the evils of those she opposes, but also their personal challenges, weaknesses and basic human decency. This shows most pronounced in her characterizations of Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII, both written with the complexities they possessed – power and cruelty, brilliance and manipulation, empathy and compassion.

The Tapestry is truly an outstanding novel that deserves to “break out” as a blockbuster historical fiction New York Times best-seller read. Step aside and bend a knee, Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex. Lay down for a moment your novels, plays and mini-series success. Joanna Stafford is in the house.

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Nancy Bilyeau 3

Nancy Bilyeau, who lives in New York City, is the executive editor of DuJour magazine. A prolific award nominated and short list placing screen play writer, Nancy also previously worked on the staffs of InStyleRolling StoneEntertainment Weekly, and Ladies Home Journal.  A lover of medieval English history, Nancy’s debut novel, The Crown released in 2012 and her follow-up novel, The Chalice in 2013. Her novels combine historical fiction and thrillers, detailing the exploits of Joanna Stafford, a prelate nun living during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers appreciates Nancy’s support of the website from it’s early inception, and we are proud that she is our first contributing published author. For more information, visit Nancy’s website at http://www.nancybilyeau.com/index.php.

The Tapestry releases today in the United States and will release in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia on April 24, 2015.

TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY IN THE USA

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The Tapestry

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TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY IN THE UK

CLICK THE LINK BELOW!

The Tapestry

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Beth von Staats

is the owner and administrator of QueenAnneBoleyn.com. The author of "Thomas Cranmer in a Nutshell", Beth specializes in writing magazine articles, online historical articles, short stories, and flash fiction.

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