The Tapestry

The Tapestry: A Novel - Nancy Bilyeau

The Tapestry is the third book featuring Joanna Stafford. Joanna is a former nun from the priory in Dartford that has been closed, ordered by King Henry VIII. She does have some royal blood but court is the remotest place she wants to be. She is brought to the Tudor court, reluctantly, and is tasked with creating a tapestry for the King and inventory his many tapestries. On her first day at court, she is attacked by an unknown assailant. Thus starts her journey back into court life and it's many intrigues and backstabbing politics among the major players in the Tudor court. She is not a fan of King Henry VIII because of his dissolution on the monasteries and just his cruelness, but the King is currently married to Anne of Cleeves and has his sights set on Catherine Howard who Joanna is friends with. Catherine is young and very impressionable and Joanna wants to protect her from the scheming and irascible man that the king has become.

Joanna becomes fast friends with German painter Hans Holbein, who paints a picture of Catherine Howard that Joanna will incorporate into the tapestry she is tasked with creating. She uses her position of Tapestry Mistress to travel to Paris and Flanders and through Germany, she has an ulterior motive though. She found out that her friend and former fiancee, Edmund Sommerville, is in Germany but no one has seen or heard from him in a long time. So with her protector Geoffrey Scoville and Hans Holbein they travel into an area that is suffering from famine. During this time, Joanna has to figure out what the course of her life will be, does she want to marry or wait until England becomes a Catholic nation again so she can continue her life as a nun. 

I did enjoy the previous two books in the series, but I think I liked this one the best. Joanna is a very likable character, finally able to see what it is she desires, to live a peaceful life away from the machinations of a corrupt court. Nancy Bilyeau is one of those kind of authors that tells a historical fiction story that is based on historical events and does so in an enjoyable and entertaining way. I loved the series for it's intrigue and suspense. I would recommend that you read the series starting with The Crown as it sets up the story right from the beginning. It is not a stand alone novel. I highly recommend this series for the Tudor fan and if you enjoy historical fiction in general.