Wednesday, April 17, 2013

HFVBT: The Chalice--Guest Post from author, Nancy Bilyeau and {Giveaway}


Welcoming today...Nancy Bilyeau

In The Chalice, I dip deeper into mysticism than in The Crown. I based this decision, in part, on the contemporary belief in prophecy, astrology and the supernatural. While the Christian faith guided everyone’s life in Tudor England, these beliefs definitely co-existed.

In this passage, extracted from Chapter Seven, Joanna Stafford, a former Dominican novice, has agreed to stay with her cousin, the warm and friendly Henry Courtenay, marquess of Exeter, and his gracious wife, Gertrude, in their luxurious London home, The Red Rose. But she’s learning all is not what it seems….

It was mid-morning. The Red Rose whirred with busyness. The staff rose at five in the morning and worked steadily until sundown. It felt strange to be purposeless in the midst of it. 

True to her word, Gertrude Courtenay stayed clear of the king’s court. She’d not left the Red Rose since my arrival. Instead, people came to her. Everyone from dressmakers to apothecaries, jewelers to scholars, they sought to occupy as many minutes of Gertrude’s time as possible. While doing business, she was always attended by her gentlemen ushers, maids and ladies, principally Constance.

To reach the stairs leading to Gertrude’s rooms, I had to pass by the one part of the house I did not care for: the great hall. It was a vast, empty room. Unused. On the first morning of my stay, before the dressmakers descended, Gertrude had pushed open its doors and walked with me down the length of the hall, as part of a house tour. 

But something happened in that room. Something I had not been able to make sense of.

It was when I gazed at the fireplace. High enough for a man to stand inside without stooping, it was swept clean. No flames had licked its walls for months, perhaps years. Two carved limestone figures, jutting out from the over mantle, caught my attention. They were not what you’d usually see on a fireplace: winged lions, with mouths yawning open as if in mid-scream. 

When I stepped closer, to examine the figures, a feeling of dread came over me. An instant later, I heard the fragments. 

First the words. “May almighty God bless thee.”

Second came a brief high scream, such as that of a child. 

And then a ripple of men’s laughter.

It all rushed through my head and was gone. I peered at Gertrude, and behind her, Constance. They didn’t react. 

“Did you hear it?” I asked Gertrude.

Gertrude, bewildered, shook her head. As did Constance, her face a blank. 

I nearly confided in my cousin’s wife. But the impulse dissolved. I followed Gertrude out the door moments later. After all, the departure from Dartford had not been without trials. I hadn’t slept well my first night at the Red Rose. Perhaps these strains had done me ill. I certainly did not want Gertrude to think me unbalanced of mind. 

Since that first afternoon, I’d had no cause to step inside the great hall. But each time I passed it, the memory of what I’d heard gnawed at me. Was it simply fancies, or something darker? Was it, in fact, a vision?

A year before I entered Dartford Priory I first heard the word necromancy. My father discovered that two Stafford servants met a country sorcerer who carried a severed head in a bag and, if paid a shilling, would pose questions to it. After being placed in front of a magical mirror, the head would answer. My father said sternly, “Men, this sorcerer is nothing but a charlatan. And even if he weren’t, such practices stray very far from God. You risk damning your souls to hell if you traffic with someone who uses the flesh of the dead. That be nothing but necromancy.”

Whenever I was plagued by uncertainties, I turned to the sensible words of my beloved father. Today I decided to banish my fears of strange visions by entering the great hall once more and seeing for myself there was nothing amiss.

The room was brighter this time. Sunlight streamed through the long bay windows facing the inner courtyard of the Red Rose. I took a few more steps in. It was but a vast, empty rectangular space—at least three times longer than it was wide. At the far end, up high, was a stone balcony. Doubtless for minstrels.

My velvet-clad feet padded soundlessly across the floor, to the spot where I’d heard the noises almost two weeks ago.

What a strange choice, to mount grotesque stone figures on a fireplace. What had possessed him, the house’s builder? I remembered his name now, Henry Courtenay had told me it—Sir John de Poulteney. Why did he raise a manor house with a great hall, as if it were the country castle of a magnate. This room didn’t belong on Suffolk Lane. His strivings saddened me. How impossible to explain the truth of the aristocracy: That beneath the arrogance—the shallow pride and invariable suspicion—there was … emptiness. As empty as this room.

I drew even closer to the fireplace’s two figures, the winged lions on opposite corners. They put me in mind of gargoyles. I’d only seen stone grotesques on the sides of Westminster Abbey. Was it true the lion never closed its eyes, even in sleep? That it was the most vigilant of all God’s creatures?

All at once, the dread consumed me, stronger this time. Like the feeling of helpless galloping nausea just before vomiting.

I heard the fragments, but there was more. Now visions flashed before my eyes.

“May almighty God bless thee.” It was a clerical blessing, but bestowed by a smiling boy, no older than eight, wearing bishop’s robes that fit him perfectly. 

A high, young scream. Mocking adult laughter. But I also saw a second person, a man so tall he towered above a jostling line of other men. His shoulders were broad, his clothing ragged. But his face was that of a simple child: filmy eyes and a thick, wet lower lip that trembled. He looked straight into my eyes and shuddered, as if afraid.

I staggered back from the fireplace. My borrowed shoes slipped on the floor and I fell.

About the book:

Publication Date: March 5, 2013
Touchstone Publishing
Hardcover; 512p
ISBN-10: 1476708657

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era. 

In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies…

Praise for The Chalice

"Rarely have the terrors of Henry VIII's reformation been so exciting. Court intrigue, bloody executions, and haunting emotional entanglements create a heady brew of mystery and adventure that sweeps us from the devastation of the ransacked cloisters to the dangerous spy centers of London and the Low Countries, as ex-novice Joanna Stafford fights to save her way of life and fulfill an ancient prophecy, before everything she loves is destroyed." - C.W. Gortner, author of The Queen's Vow

"The Chalice offers a fresh, dynamic look into Tudor England's most powerful, volatile personalities: Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk, Stephen Gardiner and Bloody Mary Tudor. Heroine and former nun Joanna Stafford is beautiful, bold and in lethal danger. Bilyeau writes compellingly of people and places that demand your attention and don't let you go even after the last exciting page." - Karen Harper, author of Mistress of Mourning

"An exciting and satisfying novel of historical suspense that cements Nancy Bilyeau as one of the genre's rising stars. The indominable Joanna Stafford is back with a cast of powerful and fascinating characters and a memorable story that is gripping while you are reading and haunting after you are done. Bravo! The Chalice is a fabulous read." - M.J. Rose, author of The Reincarnationist

About the Author:

Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. Her latest position is features editor of Du Jour magazine. A native of the Midwest, she graduated from the University of Michigan. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children. 

For more information, please visit Nancy Bilyeau's website. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter

Read my REVIEW of The Chalice
Visit other blogs on the tour--Tour Schedule
Twitter Hashtag: #TheChaliceVirtualTour

One copy of The Chalice to a U.S. winner. Please leave a comment telling me if you would fight for your religious freedom if it was taken away from you. Be sure to leave a way to contact me if you win (email address, Twitter handle, etc). Last day to enter is Wednesday, May 8 at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!


Follow on Bloglovin


Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. No need to enter me Michelle as I have a copy of the book, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this book!!!

  2. That's really a hard question. I think I would fight for religious freedom.
    campbellamyd at gmail dot com

  3. Oh I definitely would. I've always been stubborn as a mule and would never let anyone take any rights or freedoms away from me. My mother has often told me that I should have become a lawyer as I love to argue and fight for others who cannot fight for themselves. I'd probably be that woman in the town square every day shouting from her soapbox. I'm pretty sure I am that woman :)

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    lafra86 at gmail dot com

  4. oh for sure, i would fight for my religious freedom!!!!
    thank you for the giveaway!!!!

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  5. It's hard to say; I doubt if I would endure pain or torture; I'm more of a letter-writer, passive resistance protester. Thanks for the giveaway; I've been anxious to read this sequel to The Cross, which I loved.

  6. Yes, I would, no other choice for me.

  7. Yes I would religious freedom is something that is very important to me.
    andreag @ earthlink . net

  8. Yes, I would fight for my religious freedom. We should always be able to make our own choice. Thanks for having the giveaway.


  9. Excellent post. I absolutely appreciate this website.
    Continue the good work!

    My web site ... how much should i weigh chart

  10. Hey There. I found your blog the usage of msn. This
    is an extremely well written article. I'll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will certainly comeback.

    my webpage; home income

- See more at:
- See more at: