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It is 1535, and in the tumultuous years of King Henry VIII’s break from Rome, the religious houses of England are being seized by force. Twenty-year-old Catherine Havens is a foundling and the adopted daughter of the prioress of the Priory of Mount Grace in a small Yorkshire village. Catherine, like her adoptive mother, has a gift for healing, and she is widely sought and admired for her knowledge. However, the king’s divorce dashes Catherine’s hopes for a place at court, and she reluctantly takes the veil. When the priory’s costly altarpiece goes missing, Catherine and her friend Ann Smith find themselves under increased suspicion. King Henry VIII’s soldiers have not had their fill of destruction, and when they return to Mount Grace to destroy the priory, Catherine must choose between the sacred calling of her past and the man who may represent her country’s future.
“The historical record is rarely a democratic one. Infrequently do the voices of those deemed subservient by and to the ruling elites speak from the past…Yet, in her meticulously researched, deftly written, and effectively plotted novel, The Altarpiece—the first book of The Cross and the Crown series—Sarah Kennedy gives both voice and echo to the women at the Priory of Mount Grace in Yorkshire, England.” Southern Humanities Review