City of Ladies (Book #2 of The Cross and The Crown Series)
Author: Sarah Kennedy
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing
Release Date: 2014
Source: This book was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: It’s midwinter in 1539, and former nun, Catherine Havens Overton, has just given birth to her second child, a daughter. The convent in which she was raised is now part of her husband's lands, lands that once belonged to Catherine's family. With a son, Robert, and her new daughter, Veronica, her life as the mistress of a great household should be complete.
But Henry VIII’s England has not been kind to many of the evicted members of religious houses. And in order to protect her old companions from the hostilities, Catherine has gathered about her a group of former nuns in hopes of providing them a chance to serve in the village of Havenston, her City of Ladies.
Catherine’s past haunts her. Her husband begins to suspect that Robert is not his child. Then the women of Overton House begin to disappear and one of them is found brutally murdered nearby. Seizing the moment, under the pretense of ensuring her safety, William forces Catherine to enter service at Hatfield House where the young Elizabeth Tudor lives.
Reluctantly, Catherine obeys, only to find herself serving not only the Protestant Elizabeth but also the shamed Catholic Mary Tudor. As the murders in Yorkshire continue to mount and her loyalty to the Tudor sisters grows more complicated, Catherine must uncover the secret of the killer and save her City of Ladies.
My review: Right after Catherine has given birth to her daughter, a former nun that is under Catherine’s protection has been found murdered. Soon, Catherine begins to realize that there are other disappearances of the other nuns, and she begins to fear for the worst. Her husband tries to protect her by being a healer at the Hatfield Place where Henry VIII’s children lives. However things at home begin to take a turn for the worst, and Catherine must go back to solve the murder of the former nuns.
Catherine is very practical. She thinks before she acts. She has a myriad range of knowledge about healing and poisons. She is kind to her servants, and wants to educate the poor. She is very religious and always puts her faith first. Catherine is also a strong-willed woman. She does things her way. I also like her relationship with the king’s daughters. She feels sorry for them both, and she does her best to help them. I did find her constant arguments with her sister-in-law, Margaret to be annoying, and I laughed at how crazy they were.
The plot itself is very well-organized. I liked the aftermath of how the nuns lived after their convent was destroyed. I liked how Catherine took them under her protection and made them teachers to educate the villagers’ and their children. I also liked how Elizabeth Tudor and Mary Tudor were portrayed in this book. Both of them were lonely, vulnerable, and sad. They were neglected by their father, and they felt unworthy. It was sad that Elizabeth at the age of four realized it, and she was jealous of her younger brother because he had all of her father’s attention.
Overall, this book is about friendship, loyalty, and faith. The book is fast-paced and is filled with mystery and suspense. The characters were complex and the setting has a dark atmosphere. While this book is part of a series, it can be read as a standalone. I did not read the first book, but I found that it was not necessary to read it because it gives us a good background to what had happened, and that this book has an entirely new plot. However, this novel got me interested in the first book, and its sequel which is coming out in September. This book will thrill and delight lovers of historical fiction and mystery alike as well fans of C.W. Gortner and Philippa Gregory.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars