The sequel to Bilyeau’s 2012 book “The Crown”, Sister Joanna Stafford returns for another installment of mystery, intrigue,
Dartford Priory has been suppressed by Cromwell and the king, so now the novices and sisters of the former priory must make their own way in the world. Several of the sisters, including Joanna and Brother Edmund, find homes in the town of Dartford. But anyone familiar with Sister Joanna knows that her life is rarely dull. As a child, Joanna was the object of a prophecy by Sister Elizabeth Blackwell, a well-known nun with the gift of sight. In that prophecy, Sister Elizabeth tells Joanna that she will be the means by which the suppression of the priories and monasteries by Henry VIII is stopped. Sister Elizabeth also tells Joanna that she will encounter two more seers that will more fully reveal the prophecy and that Joanna is the only one capable of stopping Henry VIII’s reign of terror.
Now prophecy is considered heresy and Joanna’s uncle, the Duke of Buckingham, was executed in large part because it was said he had consulted mystics to foresee the date of the king’s death, which is treason. Understandably, Joanna shrinks from the prophecy and ignores it completely until a chance encounter with a cousin, the Marquess of Exeter, renews the prophecy’s powerful pull. Joanna, unable to resist the call, reluctantly dives into the treacherous realm of international conspiracy, participating in heresy so that she might have a chance to save her former way of life. When the marquess, his family, and his dearest friend, all loyal to the old faith, are arrested and executed for plotting against the king, Joanna decides to do everything to obtain the messages that might allow her to stop the atrocities by Henry VIII and Cromwell. Along the way, Joanna meets Eustace Chapuys, Nostradamus, Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII himself on a journey which takes her across many miles of road and ocean, where friends quickly become enemies and Joanna begins to question where her loyalties lie.
Joanna is not your run-of-the-mill nun. Her tales are full of political intrigue, romantic entanglements, and practices the church would deem “heretical”. For a former novice, her life is decidedly unlike anything a nun would experience. Joanna is admittedly a poor judge of character – she has a particular talent for trusting people who eventually blackmail and exploit her when she proves less than compliant. But even if the theme of broken trust repeats itself, Joanna’s adventures are never dull and the intricacies of her plight, the people she meets, the heartbreaks she suffers, and the history she witnesses will keep you glued to the book, cheering her on.
Bilyeau’s work will keep you on the edge of your seat. The political and religious complexities are drawn so vividly and the historical connections the author makes will leave you amazed – the pieces fit together seamlessly. Don’t miss this one.
Amazon link for the book is here.