The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford #3) by Nancy Bilyeau
Paperback Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
Paperback; 416 Pages
Series: Joanna Stafford
Genre: Historical Mystery"Fans of the Tudor era, you're in for a treat" --InStyle magazine
Henry VIII's Palace of Whitehall is the last place on earth Joanna Stafford wants to be. But a summons from the king cannot be refused.
After her priory was destroyed, Joanna, a young Dominican novice, vowed to live a quiet life, weaving tapestries and shunning dangerous conspiracies. That all changes when the king takes an interest in her tapestry talent.
With a ruthless monarch tiring of his fourth wife and amoral noblemen driven by hidden agendas, Joanna becomes entangled in court politics. Her close friend, Catherine Howard, is rumored to be the king's mistress, and Joanna is determined to protect her from becoming the king's next wife--and victim. All the while, Joanna tries to understand her feelings for the two men in her life: the constable who tried to save her and the friar she can't forget.
Ina world of royal banquets, jousts, sea voyages and Tower Hill executions, Joanna must finally choose her future: nun or wife, spy or subject, rebel or courtier.
The Tapestry is the final book in a trilogy that began in 2012 with The Crown, an Oprah magazine pick. Don't miss the adventures of one of the most unforgettable heroines in historical fiction.
Praise“In Joanna Stafford, Bilyeau has given us a memorable character who is prepared to risk her life to save what she most values.” (Deborah Harkness)
“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!” (Alison Weir, author of The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I)
"A rip-roaring Tudor adventure from Nancy Bilyeau! Novice nun turned tapestry weaver Joanna Stafford returns to the court of Henry VIII. She's that great rarity of historical fiction: a fiercely independent woman who is still firmly of her time. A mystery as richly woven as any of Joanna's tapestries." (Kate Quinn, author of Lady of the Eternal City)
"The Tapestry takes its history seriously, but that doesn't stop it from being 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, International Thriller Writers Award winner of The Demonologist and The Damned)
"A master of atmosphere, Nancy Bilyeau imbues her novel with the 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)
"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)
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.
Tea at Trianon has the honor of being part of the Book Blast of the paperback edition of Nancy Bilyeau's The Tapestry. In The Tapestry, the third novel in the Joanna Stafford trilogy, we travel again through Tudor England with the devout former novice who, in spite of her desire for a quiet, contemplative life, always finds herself amid the storms of the controversies of the day. Expelled from her beloved Dominican monastery with the other nuns by Henry VIII's closure of the religious houses, Joanna has learned to embrace her new life as a tapestry maker, although she continues to be haunted by her past. Invited to Henry's court, she is charged by the king not only to weave new tapestries but to enhance the collection he already has. Upon arriving at court, she becomes aware that not only is she being stalked but that someone is trying to kill her. Meanwhile, Joanna also wrestles with her conflicted feelings for the two men who love her: Edmund Sommerville, a former Dominican friar to whom Joanna was once betrothed, and Geoffrey Scovill, the dashing constable.
With profound psychological insight, the author describes the layers of confusion experienced by a young person who has unwillingly left the cloister and been launched once again into the cares of the world. In spite of her training in a life of prayer and study, Joanna, who was only a novice when she had to leave the order, must still struggle with her impulsive and headstrong behavior. Not only must she deal with her own painful memories and heartbreak, but she must see her homeland torn apart by the whims of the bloody tyrant Henry has become and his ruthless henchman, Thomas Cromwell. Joanna fears for her friend and cousin Catherine Howard, who has caught the king's attention, knowing that the teenager is a lamb among wolves.
In her novel of suspense as well as of authentic historical drama, Ms. Bilyeau is not afraid to face the controversies of a faraway time, controversies which eventually would produce the modern world.
1.) Nancy, writing such a vivid recreation of Tudor England obviously required a great deal of research. Could you tell us a little more about the highs and lows of your forays into the past?
NB: I’m a research fiend, so there weren’t any “lows,” exactly. I love to read about the 16th century. Sometimes when the novel writing is going badly, when I’m unsatisfied with what I have on the screen, I give myself a “treat” and delve into the research instead.
I have to say that in the beginning, there was some nervousness. I’ve been interested in Tudor England since I was a teenager, and I’ve built a home library of many biographies and political studies. But when I decided to set the first book inside a priory of the Dominican Order, I had my work cut out for me. That priory, which was in Dartford, in Kent, was demolished. Nearly ever monastery was. They didn’t leave diaries or memoirs. There was very little chronicling of what went on inside the monasteries besides the rules they followed. It was like studying a lost world.
The high point was my research trip to England in June of 2011. I was so excited about simply being able to travel there—I have a fulltime job, two children at home and my mother suffers from Alzheimer’s—that I slept perhaps an hour on the night flight from New York City to London. But I did not nap when I checked into the hotel at noon. I threw myself into my research immediately. At sundown, I was sitting at a little table overlooking the Tower of London. I’d been in the last group of the day to tour inside. I had my dinner, eating fish and chips, thinking about what happened inside those centuries’ old walls. I know it may sound bizarre to find such happiness at the Tower, but I did!
2.) As someone who spent time in a monastery as a young woman, I have always been impressed with your portrayal of the novice Joanna Stafford, and her struggles when having her monastic life taken away from her. I find your characterization of her to be ingenious and inspired. How did you create such an authentic character?
NB: Thank you so much! I had a few ideas of actions she would take, like leaving her priory without permission to stand by her cousin’s side when she is to be executed at Smithfield. I thought about what kind of person would be truly committed and devout yet would take drastic, bold action. And then I built a personality from that, adding layers and details. I did research the lives of those young women who were from the noble families of England but were not in the center of power—like the Staffords. That helped me too when it came to her values and her education and her expectations.
3.)Your books give a refreshing view of Reformation England by showing the suffering of faithful Catholics, especially monks and nuns. What originally inspired you to write from the point of view of a devout young woman?
NB: My driving goal was originality. I felt that real-life queens and princesses, and fictional ladies-in-waiting, had been written about enough. I wanted to write a protagonist who is female and I wanted to tell the story from the perspective of someone not heard from in Tudor fiction: a nun. The tumultuous medieval period of England is I think better understood through the Brother Cadfael books of Ellis Peters than the traditional king and queen stories. And the Tudor period for the monastics was more than tumultuous—it was cataclysmic! I wanted to set a story in that time of intense conflict.
4.) I like how you show how Henry VIII could be an extremely charming man and that he was in fact a brilliant and gifted man. Why do you think he indulged in such tyrannical behavior?
NB: Yes, I think that historical novelists sometimes go wrong with Henry—they ignore his charm and intellect and all of his passionate interests. There is a reduction that takes place. In these other books he is a tyrant who kills people and marries six women. And Henry was tyrannical, and he did have wives and ministers executed. He was extremely ruthless and manipulative. But isn’t that what fascinates us now, the dichotomy of a strikingly handsome man of royal birth and a fine mind and sometimes affable nature, who did frightening things that destroyed people, demolished a whole way of life? As to the why, I think it’s hard for us to grasp today, because the Tudors seem like such glittering monarchs, that it was an insecure dynasty. Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary I all faced serious rebellions and challenges to their rule. Elizabeth I defeated a serious invasion attempt. I think Henry VIII was fearful of holding onto his throne, and many of the things he did were to strengthen his grip. Also I suspect that despite his handsomeness and athletic build, he had some insecurities as a man. That would explain a lot.
5.) Thomas Cromwell, whom many regard as Henry's evil genius in the pillaging of the monasteries, has experienced some good press lately via Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Why do you think Henry gave Cromwell such a free hand in despoiling Catholic religious houses and shrines, etc. in England?
NB: There were two reasons. Money and vindictiveness. Henry VIII was emptying his treasury. He spent a great deal of the money that his frugal father, Henry VII, left him on trying to wage war on France and on luxurious living. Cromwell opened up an enormous new source of cash: the land and buildings and valuables owned by the Catholic abbeys, priories and shrines. It was a land grab. Henry VIII would not have to beg Parliament for money or be forced to listen to his nobles if he had his own source of money. And by handing out properties to the “new men,” he bound them closer to him alone.
The vindictiveness comes from the king’s anger over the Pope not granting him the annulment he wanted. He had to wait for years, being frustrated and sometimes outmaneuvered by the opposition: his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, her nephew, the Emperor Charles V, and those loyal to them. By the time Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn and had himself declared head of the Church of England, he was seething. He seemed like he had won a victory, but by pulling away from the great Catholic powers he isolated himself. And then he had to defeat a very serious rebellion, the Pilgrimage of Grace, that broke out in the North of England, among people who feared and hated Cromwell’s religious reforms. Henry VIII blamed the monastic orders for stirring up dissent and also he distrusted them because he thought their loyalty was to their orders and to Rome, rather than to him. He took out his vengeance. His cruelty to some, such as the Observant Franciscans, the Carthusian Martyrs and the abbot of Glastonbury, is stomach turning. You don’t see any of this in Wolf Hall.
6.) Joanna is a devout but spirited heroine and anything but dull. Thank you for challenging the stereotypes that exist about pious people, namely that they are dull, bigoted and cannot think for themselves. Joanna is bursting with life, love and determination and actually reminds me of some nuns that I have known. Where do you think people get such dreary stereotypes of devout people?
NB: I think that some people who don’t know anything about nuns and monks believe they are strange, joyless creatures. They don’t see any happiness in devotion to a spiritual life. I met a sister at a real Dominican Order in the United States who was friendly and upbeat and told jokes. A nice “normal” person. She read my second and third books for accuracy. And in my books I tried to show the spirited intellectual life of the time, particularly in The Crown. Having a meal with Bishop Stephen Gardiner would be many things, I’m sure, but it would not be dull! I received two emails from friars after The Crown was published that said they felt I had captured what it was like to live in a religious community.
7.) For those who are inspired by your novels to explore Tudor England through their own research, what non-fiction books would you recommend?
NB: There are so many wonderful books! Here is a sampling:
The Stripping of the Altars and Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition, by Eamon Duffy
Henry VIII, by Jasper Ridley
Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and His Six Wives Through the Writings of His Spanish Ambassador, by Lauren Mackay
Winter King: Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England, by Thomas Penn
Henry VIII: The King and His Court and The Lady in the Tower, by Alison Weir
Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, by David Starkey
The Creation of Anne Boleyn, by Susan Bordo
Supremacy and Survival, by Stephanie Mann
Book Blast ScheduleTuesday, March 22
Just One More Chapter
Historical Fiction Addicts
Svetlana's Reads and Views
Wednesday, March 23
Passages to the Past
With Her Nose Stuck In A Book
Thursday, March 24
Impressions In Ink
The Life & Times of a Book Addict
Friday, March 25
The Reading Queen
Queen of All She Reads
Saturday, March 26
A Holland Reads
Sunday, March 27
Monday, March 28
A Book Drunkard
Historical Readings & Reviews
Tuesday, March 29
Wednesday, March 30
The Lit Bitch
Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne
Thursday, March 31
A Book Geek
What Is That Book About
Friday, April 1
A Dream within a Dream
Saturday, April 2
So Many Books, So Little Time
Sunday, April 3
Susan Heim on Writing
Monday, April 4
100 Pages a Day
A Literary Vacation
Tuesday, April 5
The Tudor Enthusiast
Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
GiveawayTwo paperbacks of The Tapestry by Nancy Bilyeau are up for grabs! To enter, please use the GLEAM form HERE.
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Here is an interview of Nancy Bilyeau by Christine Niles.