Would you want your daughter to sacrifice her life in order to honor her family? An anchoress is one “who renounces the world and secludes herself for religious reasons.” Our novel begins with a young woman on an altar about to be sequestered for the rest of her life within the walls of a cell. The mother of the young woman stands with her hand over her heart.
Choices are often made in haste and then the person pays dearly without any regard for the consequences. All too often young people and older adults are quick to decide about where they want their lives to go without giving thought to what their decision entails. Felicity made a decision. She wants to become a nun and is now discussing it with Father Oswin. Thinking that he was just going to acquiesce and make it easy for her she learns she is sorely mistaken. But, no matter what her reasons Father Oswin explains that there are steps she must take, convents that she must visit and learn about and “Give the Spirit a change to reveal its’ ways to you.” Holy Week was beginning and Felicity was caught up in the prayers, the offering bow to the altar cross and much more. But, something happens that just might change her decision or delay it when a good friend tells her something about her parents, alerts her to the fact her mother just might come and pay her an unwelcomed visit and her close friend Antony informs her that Our Lady of Transfiguration has disappeared and he has been asked to find it. Hoping to enlist Felicity’s help and telling her that the Father Superior of the Community suggested she work with him did not change her mind about going on a retreat to find a convent that she would want to join. Telling him to enlist the help of Neville to find the Russian icon, she makes her way to the convent and meets the Mother Superior, nuns and the novices. When she finally speaks with her what she learns might change her mind, encourage her to continue or decide to learn more about the other orders. What she thought would be a quick decision would be one that required her total commitment, and going through the many stages required before becoming a nun. As the Mother Superior explains to Felicity and the reader that first the candidate needs to think of her relationship wither her own family before taking on another one. She needs to understand that she is giving over her life to this vocation. Then, the Mother Superior explains that everyone makes mistakes and asks if she can handle criticism and the author relates the type of mistakes and questions asked of all candidates. Before the candidate takes her fives it could be up to five years of training. But, there is much more as her Antony will not give up on his relationship with her nor will he give up on the fact he needs her to help find the Icon. What he does next allows the reader to know that he is smart and clever as he brings not only Neville but her mother to the convent for what could turn out to be more than just an encounter she does not want.
An incident that follows in the chapel will change everything as one of the nuns is seriously injured and the Mother Superior deems it not an accident. Ambulance called but what Felicity notices about the insignia on the ambulance and then the Icon being replaced alerts the reader that something is more than wrong. With her keen skills of observation Felicity points these anomalies out to Antony and then Neville disappears. But, she and the rest could no longer remain at the Community of the Holy Cross and decided to move on the Community of All Hallows and get acquainted with the order and help Antony in his inquiries. But, her mother says what the others do not, that perhaps Neville is the one responsible for hitting the nun over the head. But, Felicity does not agree.
The author flashes back to our prologue and we meet Gilly the anchoress and we learn more about her fate, he life and her death. Locked and sealed in her cell, and now lying helpless in her bed her family does more than lament for her impending fate. But, miracles happen and the author through Antony relates that Gillian who became Julian wanted to experience being ill to the point of almost dying as she explains in order to understand and know true sorrow for her sins and have more love for God. Would this story allow her to understand her mother and give her another chance? As the Mother Superior related to her when she first arrived at the convent she should learn and asses her relationship with her own family before taking on a new one.
As the need to find the Russian icon before the Patriarch of Moscow arrives for the Community of Holy Week, more icons are missing and a close friend is murdered. Upon further investigation no one has seen or heard from Neville nor did he make an appointment for another retreat. As Felicity’s mother leaves she and Antony continue investigating. The history and research provided by the author really adds to the story and holds the reader’s interest. Discrepancies in the Icons noticed by sister Johanna that the colors lacked subtlety and luster. Added in speaking with the researcher working for the church seemed anxious to get rid of them.
Through out the novel the author provides a timeline for each day within the time of Lent, Passiontide, and Holy Week up until Easter Sunday. As Felicity tries to envision the life that Gillian/Julian lived she enters the cell, tries to understand how she spent her days and looked at the many icons within the cell questioning sister Johanna. “An icon is defined as an image which leads us to a holy, Godpleasing person or raises us up to heaven, or evokes a feeling of repentance or prayer.” The author teaches the reader value of the icon is in the fact that when someone approaches it they want to pray before it. As Felicity questions the sister more about the discrepancies in the icons she asks Antony to learn more about Julian and her relationship with her mother in her final days.
Then, they learn Neville’s fate as they find him in a shallow grave in the mill. With the Police on site they venture back to All Hallows more than just shaken up. As Felicity meets with the Mother Superior at All Hallows and learns more about the order will this be the place for her in the future? But, first, she is going to learn more about the murder, the victim’s past and hopefully figure out who has been stealing the icons and who committed the murder. Her discernment journey takes her to Rempstone, Norwich, and London where she teams up with her mother and then to Walsingham. She next meets with Neville’s uncle who guides them through The Temple Church and along with the reader we take a journey back in time to the Templars, their history and how the murder and the stolen icons link to The Knights of St. John Malta. This book is so replete with the history of the different Templars, the different orders and the Masons it keeps the reader glued to not only the story but learning more about the time period and the history. Then, a famous art historian and collector that Antony had just met with is shot and murdered. The story continues as we learn about The Lost Book of Margery Kempe her life and much more. Finding an important discovery in her reading Antony makes sure that she does not reveal it to anyone. Then Antony is attacked and found outside of the priory and Felicity is determined to find out why, learn where all of the icons are and to return to Kirkthorpe with the icon and present it to the Patriarch of all Russia.
When Felicity and her mother return to Kirkthorpe Antony is not there. Told he was picked up by one of the brothers Felicity realizes that he is in danger. What happens next will definitely surprise the reader as Felicity and her mother race the clock to find Antony. When arriving at where she thinks he is being held both Cynthia and Felicity are kidnapped. Just who is behind Neville’s murder and who else was hiding in plain sight you just won’t believe. The reason behind the thefts and what you will learn when Felicity reveals the truth you will have to read for yourself. Two people that were estranged learn the true meaning of honesty and love as Felicity learns the harsh truths about her mother and finally realizes the meaning of honesty, what she wants for her life and the blessing that she now has found: her mother. Will she decide to become a nun? Will she wind up with Antony or take the veil? Just who is behind the murder and the thefts you just won’t believe. Will Father Antony and Felicity wind up together who will they choose God? You won’t know what is next until you read: An Unholy Communion and find out what the author has in store for Felicity and Antony. History, Murder, Deceit, lies and forgiveness in this great FIVE Star novel.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
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