The Altarpiece by Sarah Kennedy

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

AltarpieceCoverThe 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!

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  • I do love historical fiction but also have not read any book set in the 16th Century, your causing my to read list to become miles long and I’m so jealous of you getting the books 🙂

    • Enid, I think you might enjoy this one. You will be able to read it in one weekend, because it’s only 224 pages. It’s a short and enjoyable tale about the happenings in the 16th century.

      • I really need to move back so we can have a book club :-). I can bum your books then and don’t worry I have a few great ones too.

        • I definitely look forward to that! Please come back…

  • This sounds like a wonderful historical novel! I’m going to Goodreads and putting it on my Want to Read list! Thanks for the review.

    • It is a nice read, Ricki.

  • I do love historical fiction but this one…eh sadly not for me

    • Oh well, we all have our preferences… Which types of historical fiction do you enjoy?

      • ….honestly anything and everything.

        • Same here, as long as it’s well done and I enjoy it. For some reason I keep leaning towards historical fiction set in Europe, around the civil war time period. Lately I’ve been reading other ones too, like this one…

          • I I must choose…well the British Isles 9th to 13th century

          • Nice! I haven’t read anything about that era before, will browse some book choices…

  • Ow sounds interesting. I read various books touching the topic of this change but cannot recall a book seen from this point of view. Adding it to my TBR

    • It was for me, because I am not that familiar with reading about that period. Which other books have you read? Maybe I’ll look into reading more about the 16th century historical novels…

  • I love anything to do with history; the only snag is my inability to read much these days. Interesting review, Melinda.

    • Thanks Celestine. Historical fiction is always interesting, because of that 🙂 What’s wrong? Why can’t you read?

  • Thank you for these kind words! I’m so happy that you enjoyed the book–and that I have discovered your wonderful page!

    • Thanks Sarah! You’re welcome

  • Thank you for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoyed the book–and happy that I have discovered your wonderful page!

  • I love books that take place during the Tudor era! I am going to be checking this one out for sure. Thanks!

    • Strangely, I’ve never picked up a historical fiction novel about this period. I hope to read more about this era in future. I hope you enjoy it, Allison.

  • This era is one of my all time favorites 🙂 Great review!

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  • One of the things I love about this review is that not only do you recap it, but you let us know it’s short in case it’s something interesting but maybe not something we’re dying to read and might want to pick it up anyway. Fab review!

  • I’m a lover of historical fiction and I fell in love with Henry VIII when I was about 7 so thank you very much for sharing.

    • You’re welcome. I hope to read more about this era!

  • Isi

    Sounds good, Mel! I have never read about the Tudors, and I was thinking that Philippa Gregory was the only author who has write about this period 😉 It’s because I find her books everywhere!! hehehe
    Perhaps I’ll give it a try!

    • I want to read Phillippa Gregory’s books too. I might give them a go soon 🙂

  • I am not really into historical fiction, I read a few and will read some more that tickles my fancy. Also in most historical fiction, all healers believed to be witches… & in today’s life they are known as doctors & nurses… The mindset of people back then was quite strange to a certain degree. I love the book cover, it reminds me of a St. Christopher. I love how you describe Catherine to us, a woman of character…

    • Oh, I know you’re not a fan of historical fiction 🙂 This one was actually rather short. and an enjoyable read. It was interesting to read about that times, as with all other historical fiction – and probably the reason why I like reading it. The cover is nice yes, I have the book in hardcover.

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