by Nancy Bilyeau
Amazon / Goodreads
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.
Review:This is the third and final adventure for Joanna Stafford, former novice to the Dominican priory. I have so enjoyed Joanna's journey, and the historical setting that the author has created from the real history, and I think this is a wonderful conclusion to the trilogy. As this series has progressed, the focus has changed from a historical mystery for the main character Joanna to solve, to a mystery now more focused on Joanna. However, the mystery in this novel is less hair-raising compared to the dangers of living in the court of King Henry VIII. The author has created a perfectly chilling portrait of King Henry as a spoiled despot with a touch of vulnerability - especially when he is surrounded by so many ambitious men. This novel posed somewhat as a history lesson as many of the people featured were people who lived at that time and the author weaves Joanna's story perfectly around them. I was glad that I wasn't as familiar with the history, as I wasn't sure what would happen to some of the characters so there was a lot of suspense for me.
In this series, Joanna is faced with some great challenges - in the beginning it was adjusting to the loss of her priory and her plans for her life, and in this book, I felt one of the major challenges was dealing with the loss of Edmund who she had planned to marry until King Henry made it impossible. The romance in this book is very understated - mostly because Joanna finds it difficult to deal with her own feelings about men. Even though it's not a big part of this book, I was very invested in that aspect, especially as there is a bit of a twist towards the end and things did not go the way I was expecting. But to get the true impact of that, it's important to read the first two books to understand the characters and their actions.
I found this a very satisfying, and thrilling conclusion to Joanna's story. There's a lot of drama, suspense and twists and turns, and Joanna is the very epitome of a graceful, intelligent heroine. This whole series was a joy to read, and I'm glad Joanna received a fitting and touching finale.
(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review.)