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Historical Fiction Review – The Chalice

The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

Review by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty)

I enjoyed The Crown so it was a foregone conclusion that I would pick up Ms. Bilyeau’s second novel The Chalice.

Former novice Joanna Stafford is trying to make a life for herself in the village that was once served by Dartford Abbey, all the while facing bigotry and resentment from the villagers.  Many of the Sisters, Brother Edmund, and Constable Geoffrey Scoville, once again populate the pages.  As well as the nemeses that plagued Joanna’s life are back, plus a few more for good measure.  She is once again a pawn in a dangerous game, but one that has a far wider reach than in the last novel.

Bilyeau is a fine writer and she tells a good tale.  She writes with a real knowledge of the Tudor period, and while she takes small liberties now and then with historic figures, it is done with real forethought as it pertains to the arc of the story, so is not gratuitous.  Of course she is going to be more sympathetic to the characters that follow the Church of Rome, Joanna was a novice after all and views life through that belief system.  Bilyleau does a superb job of showing the difficulties that the inhabitance of the religious houses had assimilating back in to a secular society, after the dissolution of the monasteries, especially when the secular society under Henry VIII was so undefined.  There is mysticism and devious plots and love stories and betrayal and through it all Joanna tries to keep her faith.

4 stars 



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