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Historical fiction done right: Dazzling debut tackles Henry VIII

Lisa Steinke, with Liz Fenton, is the co-author of the debut chick lit novel l'll Have Who She's Having and the popular Chick Lit blog chicklitisnotdead.com.

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

If you're looking for a new author to add to your library, look no further. Nancy Bilyeau dazzles with her historical fiction debut, The Crown, tackling this up-and-coming genre with the perfect blend of heart, soul and historical detail. And dare we say, she makes 1537 England sexy? (Take that, Henry VIII!)

The CrownAbout The Crown

An aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father and preserve the Catholic faith from Cromwell's ruthless terror. The year is 1537. . .

Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the sacred rule of enclosure, Joanna leaves the priory to stand at her cousin's side. Arrested for interfering with the king's justice, Joanna, along with her father, is sent to the Tower of London.

The ruthless Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester, takes terrifying steps to force Joanna to agree to spy for him: To save her father's life, she must find an ancient relic -- a crown so powerful, it may hold the ability to end the Reformation. Accompanied by two monks, Joanna returns home to Dartford Priory and searches in secret for this long-lost piece of history worn by the Saxon King Athelstan in 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain.

But Dartford Priory has become a dangerous place, and when more than one dead body is uncovered, Joanna departs with a sensitive young monk, Brother Edmund, to search elsewhere for the legendary crown. From royal castles with tapestry-filled rooms to Stonehenge to Malmesbury Abbey, the final resting place of King Athelstan, Joanna and Brother Edmund must hurry to find the crown if they want to keep Joanna's father alive. At Malmesbury, secrets of the crown are revealed that bring to light the fates of the Black Prince, Richard the Lionhearted and Katherine of Aragon's first husband, Arthur. The crown's intensity and strength are beyond the earthly realm, and it must not fall into the wrong hands.

With Cromwell's troops threatening to shutter her priory, bright and bold Joanna must now decide who she can trust with the secret of the crown so that she may save herself, her family and her sacred way of life. This provocative story melds heart-stopping suspense with historical detail and brings to life the poignant dramas of women and men at a fascinating and critical moment in England's past.

About Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly and Good Housekeeping. She was born in Chicago and grew up in Michigan. Now she lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Her debut novel, The Crown, is set in 1537-1538 England. The heroine of this extensively researched thriller is a young novice at a Dominican Priory in Kent who must find a mysterious relic to save her loved ones and her way of life from Cromwell's advancing army of destruction. Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches, says The Crown "has all the ingredients of the best historical fiction: a broad cast of characters, well-imagined settings and vivid story-telling." Nancy has finished writing a sequel to The Crown, which is called The Chalice.

Bottom line: This debut novel, out Jan. 10, is historical fiction at its best.

 

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