The Crown

Photo: Lara Robby/Studio D

4 of 16
The Crown
416 pages; Touchstone
The spirited young nun at the center of Nancy Bilyeau's expansive novel of political treachery, The Crown (Touchstone), is the very definition of an accidental heroine. In 16th-century London, with Rome at war with the Church of England, Sister Joanna lives happily cloistered in a Dominican priory, "insulated from the selfishness and vanity, the mindless pomp of the world." But when her beloved cousin is sentenced to burn for treason, Joanna bravely slips away from the priory—risking excommunication—to provide comfort at the execution. Soon she is arrested and coerced into a Da Vinci Code–like scheme; refusal to cooperate could mean her father's brutal death. Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical detail throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal.
— Karen Holt