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The Crown

(Joanna Stafford #1)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,958 ratings  ·  641 reviews
Tudor fiction like no other. Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun, learns that her favorite cousin has been condemned by Henry VIII to be burned at the stake. Defying the 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.

While Joanna is in th
Hardcover, 402 pages
Published January 10th 2012 by Gallery Books
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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 ·  3,958 ratings  ·  641 reviews

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Patricia Burroughs
A mystery set in the reign of Henry VIII (after he set aside Katharine of Aragon and off-with-her-headed Anne Boleyn, during his marriage to Jane Seymour). It is a cracking good tale with murder, blood, betrayal and crimes of passion, set amidst a world of religious peril, because the main character, Joanna, is a Catholic nun. (You might recall Henry VIII’s awkward relationship with Rome and the slight grudge he had against the Roman Church?)

I find the point of view of Sister Joanna quite compel
Nancy Bilyeau’s “The Crown” began on a sour note; as I instantly gathered that it was trying “too hard” to be historical fiction. Meaning: that it tried to follow the epitome formula (major event on the initial pages, character flashbacks, etc). Sadly, “the Crown” fails to deliver on a truly deep story which is not only reflected by the plot but also by the characters and writing style. For instance, the sentences are too choppy and short, which leaves much to be desired. Furthermore, Bilyeau la ...more
Jenny Q
Dec 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
When I picked up this book to start reading I was thinking, OK, how exciting can a book about a nun really be? Well the answer is: VERY! I was pleasantly surprised to discover this book was nothing like I was expecting and Joanna Stafford made for a great protagonist. I think that's mainly because she's really not cut out to be a nun, despite her fervent faith, but she hasn't quite figured that out yet. She's educated and she was raised to be a lady of the court, so she's wise in many ways that ...more
Judith Starkston
Jun 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Crown, set in 16th century England, follows a young nun as she tries to save her family, her priory and her faith, armed primarily with a stubborn streak and a good mind. There are a number of pleasures to reading this book.

One is watching the development of Joanna. When we meet her, we are struck by her naïveté and unpreparedness for the world that she has thrust herself into, but also by her determination and intelligence. She’s one of those rare people who gain a clearer, more cynical un
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
The Crown was a unique novel that I had not quite decided if I was going to read until I had an opportunity to get a copy of the latest Joanna Stafford novel, The Tapestry. I'm glad that I did. Joanna is an interesting and well developed character, and I enjoyed her story.

The writing and historical research evident in this novel were two of the elements that I enjoyed most. Joanna is incredibly innocent of some worldly truths, yet well connected through her family. She is firm in her faith, but
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
Part Da Vinci Code, part Nancy Drew, part historical fiction, the end result was neither an interesting historical story nor a riveting page-turning mystery. While all the pieces are there: the major historical figures of the Henry VIII era, the girl who becomes a nun but still keeps her adventurous spirit, the chivalrous constable who always appears at the right moment; unfortunately, they never quite connect and the leaps and jumps made to attempt it are silly and downright unbelievable.

Christy English
Jan 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one...lots of Tudor intrigue and a loveable does my heart good to read a good book :)
Kate Quinn
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I somehow missed meeting Nancy Bilyeau at the last Historical Novel Society Conference, which is a pity because I'd have liked to congratulate her on just what she pulled off with "The Crown" - a serious investigation of the personal ramifications of the Dissolution, paired with the headlong chase of an Indiana Jones magic-relic hunt. The plot is simple: Sister Joanna has entered the Dominican order as a nun at a time when nunneries are on the brink of going extinct in England under Henry VIII. ...more

This is not a perfect book. The ending is a bit too much thrown at the reader too soon, and some of it doesn't really seem to have a point. The reader is told one too many times how perfect Joanna is, though in fairness the perfect is more moral and intelligence than looks (a nice change).

Yet, I found myself enjoying the book. It's a step above The Other Boleyn Girl (anyone else crack up about PG's quest for historical accuracy in movies?). I found something likable about Joanna, perhaps becaus
Andrea Zuvich
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Darn good book. Wonderful characters, excellent plot, and now I'm half in love with Brother Edmund! Congrats to Bilyeau on a brilliant literary work. ...more
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
This novel was a great surprise for me.
I didn't expect to like it so much.
If you like a story full of mystery, betrayal, moments of "WOW, what just happened?", more mystery, deaths (lots of that) related to the- royal- twisted- Tudor -family, this novel is made for you.

“When a burning is announced, the taverns off Smithfield Square order extra barrels of ale, but when the person to be executed is a woman and one of noble birth, the ale comes by the cartload.”
Jan 04, 2012 rated it liked it
I picked up this book because it was supposed to be a mix of The Da Vinci Code and a Philippa Gregory novel. I would say that it was significantly more Philippa Gregory than Da Vinci Code.

The book is written in the time of King Henry VIII and told from Joanna's perspective. This is done moderately well, but lacks the detail and insight that Gregory weaves into her books. Moreover, it leaves out a a lot of thoughts that would have strengthened the characters. For example, (view spoiler)
I started out reading The Crown on my phone, since historical fiction is often slow enough for me to read it gradually. About half way through I abandoned that plan, and finished it up in a couple of evenings instead. Enough said.

I really enjoyed the details of life in the priory combined with the mystery, which finally truly surfaced halfway through. What I liked best about it is the way I really felt the impact of Henry VIII's war on the Catholic church at the level of the people tossed around
Diane S ☔
Jan 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Hard to believe this is a first novel, and that is was extremely well researched is very apparent. Taking place during the reign of Henry VIII and he and Cromwell's dissolution of the monasteries and the convents, she seamlessly blends fact with fiction. Liked very much that most of the novel is told by the nuns and brothers who make up these monasteries and the reader feels the full impact of these closings on these spiritual people. This is also a very good thriller, a murder within the conven ...more
Margaret Sankey
May 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
Imagine a da Vinci Code plot set in 1537--Evil Bishop Gardiner wants to find a rumored medieval relic, the Aethelstan Crown, which is reputed to kill unworthy kings (leading, tediously, to it being sent away to France and buried and then found and dug up and returned and then sent away and then...). How or if he plans to stop the Reformation or Henry VIII specifically is left as a giant plot hole. Luckily, being that this is 1537, there is no professor of symbology, plane travel or tortured Rena ...more
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, nookbooks
29 MAR 2015 - a terrific debut featuring a strong female lead. I look forward to Books 2 and 3. I will be taking today off from reading in order to cook and bake for the week. Will begin Book 2 tomorrow.
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This incredible first novel brings readers to the months surrounding the birth of King Henry VIII son Edward. Readers are quickly drawn into the tale of Sister Joanna Stafford, the daughter of a fallen English house and a lady-in-waiting to deposed Queen Katherine of Aragon. In fact, Joanna had also served in that capacity in the final days of the Queen's life.

It is that service that led her to a life as a Dominican novice at the Priory of Dartford, an ancient structure that had been set up by K
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: england, library, reviewed
A sincere thank you to the recommender of this novel!! I dislike the Tudor era; I feel film and fiction have been saturated with it. To the usual tales of courtiers and royalty, this novel was an outstanding, happy exception! The author approached the period from a different slant--the religious enmity gripping England in the time of Henry VIII, and the forced dissolution of monasteries and churches. The narrator and heroine is the appealing Sister Joanna Stafford, a Dominican novice. The novel ...more
DNF @ 23%.

I was quite excited about starting The Crown. Usually I don't seek out historical fiction set in Tudor England but the prospect of reading this with a book club was too good to miss.

This is the first installment of a series following Joanna Stafford, a daughter of a Catholic family that has been regarded a threat to Henry VIII, a novice at Dartford Priory, and an accidental adventurer it seems.

The beginning of the book was really promising as Joanna sets out to London to witness th
Jo Anne B
Jan 13, 2012 rated it liked it
2.5 stars

This was just ok for me. It was a mystery infused with historical fiction. The historical fiction didn't work and it would have been better as just a mystery.

I did not like any of the characters. They were supposed to be royalty and members of the church yet no one was steadfast in their convictions and all succumbed to their weaknesses. This made the book not believable. 

There wasn't enough background on the main character Joanna so you never connected with her or rooted for her. She a
Sandra Helen
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first learned of The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau when I saw a tweet with a link to a teaser/trailer. This 60 second trailer made me want to know more about the book, and it made me want a trailer for my own book The Hounding. (It’s forthcoming.) I found the author’s blog, I went to, and I knew for sure I wanted to read the book. Then an exciting thing happened. I won the book in a contest! Now, I have read it, so I want to tell you about it.
This is an historical novel set in Tudor times,
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I dare you to read the first sentence and not want to keep going. From that oomph of a beginning, Bilyeau's fantastically fun and engrossing historical novel takes what is an overdone era (for me) -- the Tudors -- and provides a fun angle: the story of a noblewoman-turned-nun who finds herself an enemy of the state when Henry VIII declares himself head of the Church. At the novel's open, she's left her convent -- without permission -- to attend the public execution of her beloved cousin, and fin ...more
Pamela Kramer
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau has been described as a cross between Philippa Gregory and Dan Brown (Library Journal) and that is not far off.

The protagonist, Joanna Stafford, is a novice Dominican nun during the turbulent times of King Henry VIII. His first divorce is history and the dissolution of many monasteries has begun. Those who oppose the new religion, thereby opposing the king, are branded as traitors.

Joanna's cousin, Margaret, is to be burned at the stake as a traitor, and Joanna leaves
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Joanna Stafford, a Dominican nun in the sixteenth century discovers her cousin is sentenced to burned at the stake at the orders of King Henry VIII. She leaves the priory to go to her cousin to show her support and she is arrested along with her father and they are sent to the Tower of London. Joanna is forced by Stephen Gardiner-a horrid man-to spy for him and to find a relic. He believes this relic, a crown is at the Dartford Priory where Joanna is a nun. She is sent back to Dartford along wit ...more
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tudor-fiction
Thank you Ms. Bilyeau for giving readers Joanna Stafford. You have given readers a character with limitless potential. I must conceded I did find Joanna a little naive and perhaps flighty but those things were a result of her cloistered living. Generally those characteristics in a protagonist drive me bonkers (see Juliet Grey's Marie Antoinette) but I found Joanna charming in spite of them. Going forward I believe, Joanna Stafford has limitless potential. (view spoiler) ...more
Sara Giacalone
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Pretty amazing first novel by Nancy Bilyeau. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and characters and, although I sometimes think I've read everything about the Tudor era, this book gave me a fresh perspective. I had never thought about what it would be like to lose your home when the abbeys and monestaries were dissolved by Henry the VIII and I found Joanna's story compelling. This is not your typical "Henry's cast off wives" story; instead it is a tense drama with a central mystery and developed char ...more
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it. I must confess that when studying the period in history I hadn't given much thought to what happened to the dispossesed monks, friars and nuns. I had certainly never heard of a King called Athelstan who was supposedly the first King of all England but as I'm Welsh perhaps that was hardly surprising.I found the character's believable and felt that the book more than abley conveyed the terror and uncertaintity of life in the reign of Henry VIII. ...more
Ruth Chatlien
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. I started it during a busy week and kept longing to get back to it. I don't want to say too much and give away any of the plot--which had twists that took me by surprise. ...more
I enjoyed this historical mystery set in the time of Henry VIII while he was married to Jane Seymour.
It was primarily about Joanna Stafford and her life at this time. The audio was a good could be a bit dramatic at times. More of a fun story than actual history but it kept my attention and it was from a different perspective than other books I've read. I would read more by this author. 3.5 stars
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Actual rating: 3.5 stars

The good luck I've been having with historical fiction continues. I've seen The Crown praised everywhere, and there's a reason for that: it's really good. Though the novel got out to a bit of a slow start, by the end, I was really close to the main characters and captivated by the plot. Bilyeau writes beautifully, and made me interested in the sort of subject matter I wouldn't ordinarily care one whit about, which I take as a sign of her talent.

Though set almost entirely
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Nancy is a writer and magazine editor who has worked as an editor at "Rolling Stone," "InStyle," and "Good Housekeeping."

Her new historical novel is "Dreamland," set in 1911 New York City and telling the story of a rebellious heiress who escapes from her over protective family to experience the delights of Coney IIsland--but there are dangers too. The novel has received starred reviews from Publi

Other books in the series

Joanna Stafford (3 books)
  • The Chalice (Joanna Stafford, #2)
  • The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford, #3)

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