This is the third novel in the series about Joanna Stafford, whom we meet first in The Crown and then in The Chalice. Her beloved Dominican priory in Dartford has been shut down by Henry VIII as he continues to cut his ruthless way through the establishments of the Catholic Church. No longer a novice nun, Joanna has resolved to live a quiet life weaving tapestries, putting political intrigue behind her.
She is shocked, therefore, to receive a summons from King Henry to his palace at Whitehall. It seems her skill in tapestry-making has come to his attention. And so, once more, she faces danger. Not only does she dislike the idea of working for Henry and all he stands for, but there are rumours that he is about to discard Queen Anne of Cleves and is considering taking the young Catherine Howard as his mistress. Joanna is fond of Catherine so does all she can by prayer and persuasion to prevent it. But it soon gets even worse when Catherine is crowned queen, and Joanna fears this is a certain death sentence for her friend. If that is not worrying enough, someone wants Joanna dead. But who? And why? So follows a desperate journey through Europe to untangle the dangers that threaten her life and soul.
Although I have not read the previous two books in the trilogy, I was totally gripped by The Tapestry and am looking forward to catching up with Nancy Bilyeau, who is new to me. She captures the fear, danger and paranoia of the Tudor court as well as its extravagant splendour – not to mention all its complications. I would have liked more about tapestry-weaving, but this is merely a quibble. A highly recommended, gripping novel.