Saturday, April 27, 2024

A Discount on 'The Orchid Hour'

For the next few days, my historical novel 'The Orchid Hour' is having a deep discount: It costs $.099/£0.99 as an ebook on amazon in the US and the UK.

To download, click here

The novel was the Gold Category Winner for Historical Mystery at the 2023 Historical Fiction Company Book of the Year Contest.

Here is the review that accompanied the award:

"The Orchid Hour" is more than a conventional page-turner; it is a literary tour de force, brimming with tension, intrigue, danger, romance, and murder. The author, with consummate skill, has imbued every page with layers of narrative, creating a tapestry that ensnares the reader's imagination. It is a rich tapestry, woven with threads of storytelling that coalesce into a resplendent narrative whole.

If, perchance, you are already an admirer of Nancy Bilyeau's literary catalogue, you will readily concur that "The Orchid Hour" is a compulsory addition to your reading repertoire. It serves as a magnum opus of historical fiction, a testament to the author's talent for transporting her readers to bygone epochs, ensnaring them in a world replete with vibrant characters and enigmatic mysteries. Bilyeau's storytelling prowess shines brilliantly in this offering, earning its rightful place in the pantheon of her literary accomplishments.

All in all, "The Orchid Hour" is a literary sojourn into Prohibition-era New York City, replete with its beguiling characters, historical precision, and masterful storytelling. Nancy Bilyeau's latest work is a testament to her unwavering dedication to historical authenticity and her unmatched capacity to infuse life into bygone eras. This narrative beckons to readers who are enamoured with historical fiction, offering an immersive and captivating journey that transcends time and place.

In the realm of "The Orchid Hour," Nancy Bilyeau has created a tale that endures—a timeless narrative of transformation and resolute action against the backdrop of the Jazz Age. In her vivid prose, readers discover a heroine who defies convention and a narrative that ensnares the senses. For those who cherish the written word, this book is nothing short of a literary gem, to be cherished and revisited in perpetuity.

Friday, December 15, 2023

A Gilded Age Christmas Ghost Story

Inspired by my lifelong love of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and my more recent interest in the Morgan Library in New York, I wrote The Ghost of Madison Avenue, a novella set in 1912 NYC.

I'd always loved a Christmas ghost story. Much of the novella takes place at J. P. Morgan’s Library, at Madison and 36th Street, one of my favorite haunts (so to speak!) in New York City. In 1912, it was not a museum — it was where financier Morgan spent much of his time, as did his brilliant head librarian, Belle da Costa Greene. After I wrote this in 2019, I was excited to see an explosion of interest in Belle, such as the 2021 historical novel The Personal Librarian.

But one of my other chief motivations was to tell the story of an Irish-American family. My main character, Helen O'Neill, is a young widow with certain gifts that she herself doesn't understand. I've dedicated this novella to my mother, whose maiden name was Mary Elizabeth O'Neill. She grew up in Chicago, not New York. But in both places, the Irish experience is a rich, textured, dramatic one. It was wonderful to write about it!

Mariah Fredericks, author of The Lindbergh Nanny and the upcoming The Wharton Plot, said about the novella:

"The Gilded Age splendors of the Morgan Library come to life in this wonderful, warm-hearted tale of Christmases past, present, and future. Bilyeau weaves a wealth of gorgeous period detail into her ghost story of old New York, delivering genuine chills, family drama, and poignant romance with equal skill. A gorgeous holiday treat!"
So if you're in the mood to read a Christmas ghost story, think of mine!

You can order it as an ebook or as a paperback on Amazon. It is also available through Barnes & Noble and

Here are some photos of the Morgan Library today. Isn't it the perfect place to set a story?

Have a wonderful holiday...

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

My Tudor Novels The Crown and The Chalice, Part Two!

By Nancy Bilyeau

My 2012 debut novel, The Crown, was set in Tudor-era England with a Dominican novice, Joanna Stafford, as the protagonist. The historical thriller found readers in the United States and United Kingdom as well as other markets worldwide, from Germany to Spain to Russia. I followed it with The Chalice and, finally, The Tapestry.

I'm pleased to report that Orion Publishing, the respected house that put out my Joanna Stafford novels in the UK and Australia, is publishing The Crown and The Chalice with new covers to bring them to the attention of readers who might not have discovered the novels the first time.

Aren't these covers fantastic?

When The Crown first came out, it was dubbed by Oprah magazine "the Page-Turner You'll Tear Through." The review said: "Bilyeau deftly weaves extensive historical detail throughout, but the real draw of this suspenseful novel is its juicy blend of lust, murder, conspiracy, and betrayal."

Authors who endorsed the book included:

Alison Weir: “A stunning debut. One of the best historical novels I have ever read.”

Deborah Harkness: "Nancy Bilyeau's polished, inventive debut has all the ingredients of the best historical fiction: a broad cast of characters, well-imagined settings, and vivid story-telling. . . . In Joanna Stafford, Bilyeau has given us a memorable character who is prepared to risk her life to save what she most values, while Stafford's desperate search for a lost religious relic will satisfy even the most ardent mystery fans."

As for The Chalice, it won the Romantic Times Award for Best Historical Mystery in 2013.

The Chalice won praise from:

Elizabeth Fremantle: "THE CHALICE is a gripping, tightly-plotted mystery, with a beguiling heroine at its heart, that vividly conjures up the complex dangers of Reformation England. Bilyeau's deftness of touch and complete control over her complex material make for a truly exciting and compelling read."

Parade: “English history buffs and mystery fans alike will revel in Nancy Bilyeau's richly detailed sequel to The Crown.”

Historical Novel Society: "Bilyeau continues from her first novel the subtle, complex development of Joanna's character and combines that with a fast-paced, unexpected plot to hold the reader's interest on every page."

You can pre-order The Crown as a paperback here and The Chalice paperback here. This is for the UK market only.

In America, the novels with their original covers are very much on sale. I still get royalties every year for The Crown! You can find the trilogy in audiobook, paperback, hardback, and ebook here.

I loved writing these books and hope new readers will discover Sister Joanna...

Friday, September 22, 2023

Publisher Discount for The Orchid Hour


For the next week, my historical novel The Orchid Hour will be priced at 99 cents for the ebook in the United States and the United Kingdom.

To order it, click here.

I'm thrilled with the response to my novel!

Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and said: "Bilyeau paints a vivid portrait of 1923 New York City—particularly its insular Italian community, alluring speakeasies, and Prohibition-fueled organized crime—in this impeccably researched historical mystery...brilliantly evokes the intoxicating grit and glamour of Jazz Age Manhattan and layers a smooth blend of suspense and romance on top. Historical mystery fans will find this irresistible."

On Amazon, The Orchid Hour has a 4.4 rating among readers.

The endorsements from other authors include:

"With a heroine you can’t help rooting for, a fascinating cast of characters, and a tense, high-
stakes mystery at its heart, this is a book you can’t stop reading." -- Olivia Hawker, bestselling author of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

“Nancy Bilyeau draws you effortlessly into a layered story, rich in historical detail, with a strong, intelligent, determined heroine at its center. I loved Zia from page one.” – Barbara Claypole White, author of The Perfect Son

“The structure of the story races you through it at breakneck speed. It is a hard book to put down, and all the time, there are so many threads binding the story together that the story is like an orchid and its roots.” – Griff Hosker, author of Hastings, Flodden, and Lord Edward’s Archer series

“Nancy Bilyeau has created a beautifully layered and utterly seductive tale of a young woman’s emotional awakening and search for justice, set against the dangerous criminal world of the 1920s New York City underground. The past comes thrillingly alive as Bilyeau lifts the veil on immigrant communities, speakeasies, gangsters, corruption at the highest levels of city government, and, at its living, tender heart, a strong-willed and magnetic heroine.”
—Emilya Naymark, author of Behind the Lie, finalist for the 2023 Sue Grafton Award

"The Orchid Hour... reeks with the smell of lasagna in Little Italy, the smell of cheap gin in a 1920s speakeasy, and most importantly and most delicately with the scent of orchids at midnight... her best by far, and she'd already set a high bar." - Timothy Miller, author of The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle

"Nancy Bilyeau has become my go-to author for brilliantly written historical suspense... Read it and be seduced." - Kris Waldherr, author of Unnatural Creatures and The Lost History of Dreams

It has a 4.4 reader rating right now on Amazon. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Guest Post: Crystal King's Renaissance Recipe & Book Giveaway

Crystal King, a talented historical novelist who also published with my former imprint, Touchstone, wrote an exclusive article for my newsletter subscribers that shares a recipe! Crystal’s historical fiction is set in Italy. 'The Chef’s Secret' unfolds during the Renaissance. As my new novel 'The Orchid Hour' revolves around an Italian-American heroine, I was thrilled at the prospect of her writing up a recipe for an Italian ring-shaped cake 😊My newsletter went out to my subscribers on 9/11. And today I'm sharing this as a guest post on my blog.

Hi all!  

Like Nancy, I also write historical fiction. I have focused on historical chefs and Italian culinary figures who left behind cookbooks or manuals of stewardship that laid the foundation of the Italian cuisine we know and love today. My most recent novel, The Chef’s Secret, is about the first celebrity chef, Bartolomeo Scappi, known throughout Italy and possibly all of Europe for his grand banquets. His cookbook, L’Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi, contains over 1,000 recipes, including some of the first pasta dishes, hundreds of meat and fish recipes, and dozens upon dozens of delicious recipes for pies and pastries. It was published in 1577 and was a bestseller for nearly two centuries. 
I love writing about Italian culinary figures (my first novel, 
Feast of Sorrow, was about Apicius, an ancient Roman gourmand), and with that comes the opportunity to dive deep into these historical cookbooks to recreate the meals of the past. 
Today I’m sharing a recipe from Book V.148 of L’Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi. You may have heard that bagels originated with Polish Jews in the 17th century, but in Italy, ciambelle had been around for at least a century or two before. A ciambella is essentially a form of what we know as a bagel, dough that is boiled and then baked, and, by the 1600s, ciambelle vendors were common on the streets of many Italian cities. Ciambelle are still popular in Italy today, and many Italian American households will recognize a version of this recipe or the very similar but much harder, taralli, as a staple at their table. You’ll also see the term ciambelle to refer to sweet ring-shaped cookies or cakes, which emerged over the centuries. 
It was common to see ciambelle venditore on foot, such as this seller, who carried the crunchy but soft rounds of bread on sticks in his basket. 

This recipe tries to stay true to Scappi’s but, to give it a little oomph, I did include yeast. If you’re not a fan or can’t find any, you can leave out the rosewater and use plain water, but you’ll lose the distinct Renaissance flavor.


Note: When buying rose water, make sure that you are not buying rose essence, which might be labeled as rose water but comes in a brown bottle. Buy clear tall bottles of rose water such as Cortas or Al Wadi. 
Makes 8 large (6 inch) ciambelle
4 c. flour
1 packet of active dry yeast 
¼ cup and 1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp rosewater
1 ¼ cup goat milk  (or substitute whole milk)
2 beaten eggs
1 tbsp anise or fennel seeds
1/2 tsp salt

  1. Warm goat milk to room temperature (use a microwave or stovetop if you like but do not let it get too hot), add the sugar and yeast, and let it sit till bubbly.
  2. Mix rosewater and eggs together then add the bubbly yeast mixture and combine. 
  3. Mix fennel seeds into the flour, then form a well on the countertop.
  4. Add egg and yeast mixture to the center of the flour well, then slowly mix the edges of the flour into the liquid, combining with your fingers until a dough is formed. 
  5. Knead well, then set aside the dough, covered with a clean towel, to rise for 20 minutes.
  6. Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil. 
  7. Divide the dough into 8 even parts. You don’t want the dough to rise again, so work with the dough immediately, do not set aside.
  8. Roll the 8 dough sections into ropes, twist them, and form into large rings, approximately 5-6 inches wide, pinching the ends together. If you like, you can divide each section in half, form two ropes and then twist the ropes together before forming a ring, but you’ll need to roll the ropes much thinner. Lay the rings on a clean towel or a heavily floured surface to prevent them from sticking while you make additional rings.
  9. Put the rings one or two at a time into the pot of boiling water. Make sure they don’t stick to the bottom. They will rise to the top right away. Flip them over and let them boil for one minute. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and place on an oiled baking sheet.
  10. Sprinkle with additional anise or fennel seeds if desired.
  11. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown. 

 These are best eaten right away but will keep in an airtight container for a week, or you can freeze them and they will keep for a month.

Doesn’t this sound scrumptious? If you would like a giveaway paperback of The Chef’s Secret, please email me at, and I will pick a winner. Crystal will mail the book to your home. 

And put Crystal's next novel on your radar: In the Garden of Monsters, pitched as a Gothic retelling of the myth of Hades and Persephone, coming in 2024.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

My Jazz Age Novel Is on Sale Today!

The Orchid Hour finds its place in the world today, and I feel proud and happy. Not that there haven't been bumps and setbacks on the road to publication. There have. And I expect more to come. But I worked hard on writing the book while taking great pleasure in doing the research. It was difficult and fun at the same time. What more can you ask for in writing fiction?

Now the story can be enjoyed as a paperback, an ebook, or an audiobook in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia. 

The Amazon link is here.

For other links, go here.

“Bilyeau brilliantly evokes the intoxicating grit and glamour of Jazz Age Manhattan and layers a smooth blend of suspense and romance on top. Historical mystery fans will find this irresistible.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review 

"A gloriously heady and intimate tale of love, loss, and family, set within one of the most fascinating periods of the 20th century." -- LoveReadingUK

Featured in Town and Country‘s “Must-Read Books of Summer 2023”

"From the family shops of Little Italy to the bright lights of Dreamland, Nancy Bilyeau takes you on a glittering tour of a bygone New York… " – Mariah Fredericks, author of The Lindbergh Nanny

"This is a novel redolent with sensuality, intrigue, and suspense. If you like Agatha Christie, you will love The Orchid Hour." -- Paulette Kennedy, author of Parting the Veil and The Witch of Tin Mountain

'Nancy Bilyeau has created a beautifully layered and utterly seductive tale… and, at its living, tender heart, a strong-willed and magnetic heroine.' – Emilya Naymark, author of Behind the Lie, finalist for the 2023 Sue Grafton Award

"Evokes the Jazz Age at its hottest" --Richie Narvaez, author of Hipster Death Rattle

"Nancy Bilyeau has become my go-to author for brilliantly written historical suspense... Read it and be seduced." - Kris Waldherr, author of Unnatural Creatures and The Lost History of Dreams

With a heroine you can’t help rooting for, a fascinating cast of characters, and a tense, high-stakes mystery at its heart, this is a book you can’t stop reading.' – Olivia Hawker, bestselling author of One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow

"Nancy Bilyeau draws you effortlessly into a layered story, rich in historical detail, with a strong, intelligent, determined heroine at its center. I loved Zia from page one."--Barbara Claypole White, author of The Perfect Son

'The Orchid Hour… reeks with the smell of lasagna in Little Italy, the smell of cheap gin in a 1920s speakeasy, and most importantly and most delicately with the scent of orchids at midnight… her best by far, and she’d already set a high bar.' – Timothy Miller, author of The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

The Hidden Street I Chose for The Orchid Hour


And now I’d like to take you behind the scenes of my writing process and explain my choice of a location for my fictional nightclub, The Orchid Hour. Some of the best-known clubs of the Roaring Twenties were either in midtown (The El Fey Club) or Harlem (The Cotton Club). I contributed a guest post to author Tony Riche’s blog on Times Square of the 1920s. Read it here.

But in certain ways, I wanted to model my nightclub on Chumley’s, a real-life speakeasy in the West Village. While it was favored by literary stars like Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Eugene O’Neill, it was carefully hidden. Its Barrow Street entrance was located at the end of a nondescript courtyard, and the Bedford Street entrance to Chumley’s was an unmarked door. After all, the whole point was to hide their drinking from the police!

For The Orchid Hour, I wanted to pick a place closer to the main part of Greenwich Village but on a little-known street. So I settled on MacDougal Alley. It’s a cul-de-sac that runs east off MacDougal Street in the block between West 8th Street and Waverly Place. People who love Greenwich Village history cherish MacDougal Alley.

Named after a Scotsman who was a hero of the Revolutionary War, the alley was home to the stables for the great townhouses along Washington Square North beginning in the 1830s. Despite its proximity to people who would have felt comfortable in a Henry James novel, the alley was in an area considered unsafe. The newspapers complained that this part of the city was “in the nighttime infested with base and unprincipled persons, who take advantage of the darkness in consequence of the dense foliage of the trees and the dimness of the ordinary street oil lamps to perpetrate acts of violence.”  When gas lamps were installed in 1849, there was some relief.

MacDougal Alley is technically a “mews,” which means it’s a row or street of houses or apartments that have been converted from stables. Around the time that horses were replaced by automobiles, MacDougal Alley became a beacon to artists, perhaps drawn by the ivy-covered brick walls and the gas lamps. Many of the buildings were turned into artists’ studios.

 Here are just a few of the people who lived off MacDougal Alley:
  • Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who founded the Whitney Museum of American Art, had a studio on the alley, prompting horrified headlines such as "Daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt Will Live in Dingy New York Alley.”
  • A beautiful artist’s model and silent film actress named Audrey Marie Munson dubbed “American Venus” lived there around 1915. As one newspaper put it: “ ‘Venus of MacDougal Alley,’ Whose Beauty Is Embalmed in a Thousand Sculptures.” Later a man would murder his wife in hopes of marrying Munson and that dimmed her career.
  • Isamu Noguchi, after a stay in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona, moved to a home and studio number 33. Some of his best-known works, a series of interlocking sculptures begun in 1944, were created here. 
  • From 1949 to 1950, Jackson Pollock lived at number 9.

Audrey Marie Munson
Gertrude Whitney in studio

What’s MacDougal Alley like now? The cobblestones were paved over, and at some point it became a private street, locked to the public, although you can peer through the gates and see its charm. The homes are very expensive. One of the properties sold for $5 million in 2009. I must admit that whenever I wander past, I hope that someone will take note of my interest and beckon.

My novel The Orchid Hour will be published on August 10th.

I stopped for a peek March 2023

MacDougal Alley