Review: The Chalice, A Novel by Nancy Bilyeau

Title: The Chalice
Author: Nancy Bilyeau
Publisher: Touchstone, Simon and Schuster 5 March 2013
Genre: Fiction
Labels: Tudor History, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Tours, Historical Mystery Fiction, England, Religious Persecution, Conspiracy, Reformation, Romance.
Format: Hardcover
Age: Adult
Pages: 512
Rating: 4 Stars

Joanna Stafford was taken to live at an abbey when she was age 17. Her Spanish born mother had been maid of honor to Katherine of Aragon when she came to England. Joanna's father was from an English titled aristocratic family. Joanna had a meeting with the Holy Maid of Kent, Sister Elizabeth Barton. Sister Elizabeth has a mysterious talent that Joanna's mother had hoped could help Joanna's depression. This meeting made Joanna "uneasy" and "uncomfortable". Sister Elizabeth's conversation with Joanna is the beginnings of a building plot on Henry VIII. Joanna will be tested and pushed to the limit both physically, mentally, and spiritually.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed reading this story---for the main reason is it gave me a view in history I'd not read about before.
It is a busy story with several characters both historically known and fictional.
This story marks the beginnings of reformation and Protestantism in England. Catholicism was outlawed because Henry VIII had ended his marriage with Katherine of Aragon against Rome's authority. Henry VIII defied the Catholic Church. He then became head of the Church in England. For centuries the English had worshiped freely as Catholic, there had been no other way of Christian religion. The tumultuous years where people transitioned or adapted (albeit forcefully) from being Catholic to a Protestant must have been harrowing. I felt the author did a splendid job of showing me through Joanna's eyes how it would feel to be a beloved and faithful practicing Catholic, and yet it was outlawed and punishable by death.
Joanna is a character of integrity. She is a likable character although at times I did get frustrated with her because I felt she dawdled too much. Joanna was a practical reserved girl and she stood out in contrast against the bejeweled carnivorous royal court. Joanna is a beautiful woman, but she does not use her beauty to manipulate others. She is humble and has a servants heart.
The main theme of the story is the plot against Henry VIII. The group that is involved in this would do anything to achieve their purpose. I did not agree with their plan, nor their way of doing it. Of course this is a fictional story, yet I can have my own opinion.
I did not read book one in this series, The Crown; yet I had no problem with jumping in and reading book two The Chalice. 
The only thing I did not like about The Chalice was the added insert of occult practices. They are not viewed positively by the main character, but I still did not care for it.

Thank you to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Touchstone, and Nancy Bilyeau for my free review copy.

Link for tour:

Author Link:

Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. Her latest position is features editor of Du Jour magazine. A native of the Midwest, she graduated from the University of Michigan. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

Link @ Amazon for The Chalice:
Hardcover $15.16
Kindle $11.04

Book One in this series The Crown
Link @ Amazon:
Paperback $10.88
Kindle $10.34


  1. Just reading the first book and finding it very good.


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