Once Sister Joanna of a Dominican priory, civilian Joanna spends her time weaving tapestries, a skill she learned as a novice. In quiet Dartford, she mourns the loss of the man who was to have become her husband, Edmund – he has disappeared after their approaching marriage was declared illegal by Henry VIII. As a talented weaver, her talents come to the attention of her cousin, the King, through Queen Anne of Cleves, and she is summoned to court. Since she failed, in the last installment, to dispatch the King as she had been trained to do, Joanna’s least favorite wish is to serve Henry or to become part of his royal household.
But Henry thinks otherwise and Joanna is made Mistress of the Tapestries, after avoiding death not once but twice at the hands of an unseen enemy. The title doesn’t seem to give Joanna much protection, either – someone is out to get her. Enter, once again, Gregory Scovill, Dartford constable extraordinaire, the one person who seems to understand that Joanna’s life is in danger and who will do what he needs to do to protect her, come what may and regardless of where they need to go to find the truth.
Joanna is a force of nature. Smart, persevering, yet true to herself and her beliefs, she gets better in each incarnation. Up to her ears in court intrigues, religious persecutions, beheadings galore and Henry’s erratic and volatile nature, Joanna shines – remaining ever vigilant. Bilyeau’s rendering of the court and its diverse personalities, the palpable tension between Protestant and Catholic, and the very smells and sounds of the streets are intensely evoked. A lot of fun, and highly recommended.