Monday, March 18, 2013

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - The Chalice

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau
March 2013, Touchstone

Format?  Hardback

Source? the publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

**FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Chalice in exchange for a review.  However, the review below and the opinions therein are my own and offered without bias.

Cover? the cloaked woman...perfect
Title? also perfect... but I can't tell you why.

Why? I'm a Tudor freak and proud of it.  I especially love learning about the Tudor dynasty from other points of view and not just the same accepted story over and over again.

What Now? I've already ordered The Crown since it preceeded The Chalice, and am looking forward to the next Joanna Stafford story.

Golden Lines

When preparing for martyrdom on the night of December 28, 1538, I did not think of those I love. (1)

"You are the one who will come after," she said, her voice stronger still.  "I am the first of three seers.  If I fail, you must go before the second and then the third, to receive the full prophesy and learn what you must do.  But only of your free will.  After the third has prophesied, nothing can stop it, Joanna Stafford.  Nothing." (25)

"Rochford," she said.  " I was wife to the late Lord Rochford.  But when you were at court, he was not yet a lord.  He was known by his Christian name - George Boleyn." (106)

On the other side of the table quavered a girl of about sixteen, short and verging on plump, with long auburn hair.  She was not the duchess's daughter.  The only other time I had been inside Howard House, at a masque party given by Elizabeth's oldest son, the Early of Surrey, I met this girl.  Catherine Howard. (229)

"Prophecy is dangerous," Brother Edmund said, calmer now.  "The king knows this and that is why he fears and hates it among his subjects.  He's proclaimed it 'devilish.' A prediction of what may come to pass could inspire men to commit desperate and violent acts." (248)

Montagu whipped around and in one graceful move was on his knees.  He laid his head on the block.  His eyes found me again, and he said to me, as if no one else were at Tower Hill, "Joanna, look away." (273)

Chapuys shook his head. "Juana, you took vows of obedience to the Dominican Order, the most esteemed order in Spain, France, Italy - everywhere.  It makes no difference that this English king dissolved your priory.  You must obey us.  Those vows are unbreakable." (325)

The sun on the water gleamed so brightly, I was blinded and shielded my eyes with my right hand.  It began to tremble.  Jacquard grabbed it and made a show of kissing it.  Then he squeezed my shoulder to lean in close and whisper in my ear, "This was always a mission apre's mort - and you know it." (393)

"Joanna Stafford, I present to you Michel de Nostredame." (418)

"The marriage contract for Anne of Cleves is on its way to Germany.   Her brother the Duke of Cleves is so ambitious, he sends her to the bed of a wife killer. (428)

"Let me tell you something, Mistress Catherine Howard, and I won't want you to forget it," I said.  "You can't trust the Spanish." (470)


Joanna Stafford is a young nun adjusting, with other men and women of the cloth, to new life after King Henry VIII's destruction of houses of worship across England.  Joanna literally and figuratively stumbles into the lives of her cousin Henry Courtenay and his wife Gertrude, the Marquess and Marchionesse of Exeter, one day on her way to pick up a tapestry loom she's ordered to start a new business.  Very quickly Joanna realizes that a prophecy from Elizabeth Barton told to her when she was a teenager is destined to come true, no matter how much she fights against it and that the web of politics and deceit in King Henry's court and in the Catholic Church itself is thicker than she could have ever imagined.

What I Liked 

The Google factor - for me, a sure sign that a book is a keeper for me is the number of times I go to Google to clarify or look up things and/or especially people mentioned in the story.  

the Dissolution
Dartford Priory
Bishop Stephen Gardiner
Stafford Castle
Elizabeth Barton
Henry and Gertrude Courtenay
Maria de Salinas
the last days of Katherine of Aragon at Kimbolton Castle
Duchess Christina of Milan (and others who did not wish to become Henry VIII's 4th wife)
the politics behind King Henry VIII choice of wives
Reginald Pole
Lord John Dudley
The Duke of Norfolk, Suffolk and Boleyn opportunities and falls within the Tudor Dynasty
the life of Lady Mary Tudor in between her father's marriages and births of half-brothers and sisters
Lady Margaret Bulmer
spying in Tudor England
the lives of nuns, monks, firars and other men and women of the cloth after King Henry VIII destroyed or took Catholic churches, monasteries, etc.
the connections and tensions between England, France and Spain
Ambassador Eustace Chapuys
Six Articles: an Act Abolishing Diversity in Opinions
Emperor Charles V and King Francois
The Inquisition

What I Didn't Like

There were times when I wanted to shake Joanna.  She could be so bullheaded...but I guess that's also what made her the right person for the prophecy she was supposed to fulfill.

I never felt left out, and I don't think you have to read The Crown before The Chalice...I just wish I had.  I'm a stickler for a series in order, and lately I don't seem to be paying too much attention.

Overall Recommendation

If you like a rich, narrative dose of 15th-16th century England, you'll like The Chalice.

The Author


Other Stops on the Tour


Tuesday, February 26
Review at She Reads Novels

Wednesday, February 27
Review at The Wormhole

Thursday, February 28
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 1
Review at A Bookish Affair

Monday, March 4
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, March 5
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading

Thursday, March 7
Review at Turning the Pages

Monday, March 11
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, March 12

Wednesday, March 13
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Thursday, March 14

Friday, March 15
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Monday, March 18
Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.
Review & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, March 19
Review at Impressions in Ink

Wednesday, March 20
Review, Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria

Thursday, March 21

Friday, March 22

Monday, March 25
Review at The Novel Life
Review at Devourer of Books

Tuesday, March 26

Wednesday, March 27
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry

Thursday, March 28
Review at Layered Pages

Friday, March 29
Interview at Layered Pages

Monday, April 1
Review at Words and Peace

Tuesday, April 2
Giveaway at Words and Peace

Wednesday, April 3
Review & Giveaway at Always with a Book

Thursday, April 4

Friday, April 5

Monday, April 8
Review at Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, April 9
Review at One Book at a Time
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, April 10

Thursday, April 11

Friday, April 12
Review, Guest Post & Giveaway at Drey’s Library

Monday, April 15
Review, Interview & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Tuesday, April 16
Review & Giveaway at Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, April 17
Review & Giveaway at Library of Clean Reads

Thursday, April 18
Interview & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, April 22
Review at Book Drunkard

Tuesday, April 23
Review at A Book Geek

Wednesday, April 24
Review & Giveaway at Review from Here

Thursday, April 25

Friday, April 26
Guest Post & Giveaway at On the Tudor Trail

Monday, April 29
Review & Giveaway at Enchanted by Josephine
Review & Giveaway at Bippity Boppity Book

Tuesday, April 30

Wednesday, May 1

Thursday, May 2

Friday, May 3
Interview & Giveaway at Tanzanite’s Castle Full of Books


  1. I have heard great things about these books so I'm definitely going to give them a try!

    1. Go for it, Ruth :) I think you'll be glad you did!

  2. I have this one, and now I am eager to get started with it. I love historical fiction, and this one came unbidden, and I wasn't sure that it would be for me. Now I know that it is, and I am excited!

    1. I love this kind of historical fiction...the kind with depth and things to make me think. It keeps my mind busy :)

  3. I like this series because it's a Tudor period book without all the same old, same old. I, too am looking forward to more adventures...

    1. EXACTLY, Patty! I LOVE a new perspective on an old story :)

  4. This sounds fabulous! I'm definitely going to add it to my TBR list, but I think I'll read The Crown first.

    1. I don't think it makes a difference, but if you're going to start somewhere, you might as well start at the beginning :) I'm just a goober who didn't realize there was a book before The Chalice until I was well into it ;) Can't wait to see what you think of it! :)

  5. Joanna did make some bad decisions sometimes, agreed, but the book is so good it didn't matter overall. I like what you said about the Google factor - and the best part is when you find out the author's stuck to the facts, which Bilyeau did wherever possible.

    1. Exactly, Charlie!! Joanna's indecisiveness as well as her bullheadedness is actually pretty believable considering the time the story takes place...the lives of women, especially a woman who was a nun and now trying to live life as a regular member of society, and a strong minded, independent young woman on top of everything else. I really like the facts as me ideas for what to read about next :)