I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
The Altarpiece is the first book in The Cross and the Crown series and plays off in 1535, during the time when King Henry VIII declared war against all religious houses. Mount Grace is a priory in Yorkshire village where Catherine Havens, a young nun, grew up after being abandoned. The priory is under new ownership of a man called Robert Overton, and the nuns are required to abandon their faith and take a vow on the new ways. Catherine, along with her mother Christina (the prioress of Mount Grace), her friend Ann and an elderly nun, Veronica, swears to protect their belongings and faith, no matter what happens.
One evening, Catherine and Ann, finds that their altarpiece has been stolen. A beautiful art work of the virgin mother Mary and her son. They suspect that one of the soldiers have stolen it, however Robert Overton takes the nuns under suspicion. Catherine has a gift… she is a healer and she uses her knowledge to cure Robert’s brother, William, when he falls ill with small pox that has fallen upon the village. Her “gift” is also a curse, because she might run the risk of being accused of being a witch. Meanwhile, a strange death occurs in the village and a friend of the man gets accused of the murder, and subsequently also accused of having stolen the altarpiece. Catherine, being a friend of this man’s wife, tries to find him to seek for answers and maybe even to find the altarpiece which she believes he has stolen. She does this so that the nuns can be cleared from suspicion.
Although I enjoy reading historical fiction, I have mostly read books that play off during the civil war, so reading about the Tudor period was a first for me. Reading about the destruction and brutality during the abandonment of the Roman church to create the new Church of England under King Henry VIII’s reign was interesting. I think the author described the era well, as well as the hopelessness that the nuns felt. I enjoyed Catherine’s character the most, because I felt her character showed the most growth. She fell for William Overton and soon questions her believe, ending in her having to decide: her faith or William. I hated the despicable Overton twins and Ann, I find to be quite a feisty young woman; however I had qualms with Christina. She is so set in her ways and so unnecessarily stubborn that I feared something would happen to her if she does not stop it, and I was right….
I find this novel to be a short, enjoyable tale about faith, struggle and forbidden love during the Tudor period. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoy reading about that time period, or anyone who enjoys historical fiction. It’s not a lengthy novel, so it’s a quick read!