The Romance Of Italy
February 19, 2016
What could be more romantic than Italy? The hush of a gondola plying the waters
of a Venetian canal, the painted beauty of the countryside around Florence, the
walled cities of Sienna and San Gimignano… For your Valentine month treat, I
offer up a quartet of historical fiction that explores the art, craft,
excitement and intrigue of Venice, Florence and Sienna. Enjoy!
Progressing chronologically, we begin with THE TOWERS OF TUSCANY by Carol M Cram. In this
story set in the beautiful walled city of fourteenth-century San Gimignano,
Sofia secretly trains as a painter in her father’s workshop. But women cannot
paint openly, and turning her back on her talent, she takes refuge in a
traditional marriage. When her father is killed in a tragic accident, despairing
of the husband who has come to despise her for not producing a son, Sofia flees
to Siena, disguises herself as a boy, and returns to painting. There, her work
attracts the attention of a compellingly attractive noble patron—whose growing
interest in both her art and the artist force her into a desperate choice. Full
of interesting detail about art and the city, Cram paints a vivid picture of
early Renaissance Siena.
Sofia is trained in secret as a painter in her father’s workshop during a
time when women did not paint openly. She loves her work, but her restless
spirit leads her to betray her extraordinary gifts to marry a man who comes to
despise her for not producing a son.
After Sofia’s father is crushed by
his own fresco during an attack motivated by a vendetta, Sofia realizes she must
escape her loveless marriage. She flees to Siena, where, disguised as a boy, she
paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the
woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys
Meticulously researched settings and compelling characters are united
with a strong heroine in this rich portrait of medieval Italy.
edition: This edition of The Towers of Tuscany includes editorial
Another take on a DaVinci-code premise drives THE BOTTICELLI SECRET by Marina Fiorata. With a most
unusual heroine—sometime-artist’s model and full-time prostitute Luciana
Vetra—and taking considerable liberty with historical fact, Fiorata creates a
tour de force through the city states of Italy in the fifteenth century. When,
after posing for the central figure in Botticelli’s “Primavera,” Luciana is
cheated of payment, she steals an unfinished copy of the painting. But there’s
something unusual—and deadly—about it, and soon friends and clients are being
killed as someone attempts to get it back. Turning for help to the one man who’s
never desired her, librarian Brother Guido, Luciana convinces him to flee
Florence with her, beginning a journey that takes them through Pisa, Rome,
Venice, Milan, and Naples, with adventures from the high seas to the mountain
ranges as they try to solve the mystery of the painting—before their murderous
pursuer can catch them.
In this exhilarating cross between The Da Vinci Code and The Birth
of Venus, an irrepressible young woman in 15th-century Italy must flee for
her life after stumbling upon a deadly secret when she serves as a model for
When part-time model and full-time prostitute Luciana Vetra
is asked by one of her most exalted clients to pose for a painter friend, she
doesn't mind serving as the model for the central figure of Flora in Sandro
Botticelli's masterpiece "Primavera." But when the artist dismisses her without
payment, Luciana impulsively steals an unfinished version of the painting--only
to find that someone is ready to kill her to get it back.
possibly be so valuable about the picture? As friends and clients are
slaughtered around her, Luciana turns to the one man who has never desired her
beauty, novice librarian Brother Guido. Fleeing Venice together, Luciana and
Guido race through the nine cities of Renaissance Italy, pursued by ruthless
foes who are determined to keep them from decoding the painting's
Gloriously fresh and vivid, with a deliciously irreverent
heroine, The Botticelli Secret is an irresistible blend of history, wit,
We move on to the sixteenth century and another unusual heroine in Linda Lafferty’s THE SHEPHERDESS OF SIENNA:
A NOVEL OF RENAISSANCE ITALY. Orphaned Virginia Tacci is raised by her aunt and
uncle in the Tuscan countryside, where, as she tends her sheep, she observes
Isabella de’ Medici riding with the reckless daring of a man. Despite the limits
imposed by her peasant class and female gender, Virginia, who has always loved
horses, begins to dream of one day racing in the famed Palio. Her persistence in
pursuing this goal will not only test the boundaries of what is possible for a
girl, but also animate the will of the Sienese, who have suffered more than
twenty years of subjugation, to contest the rule of the tyrannical Gran Duca
Francesco de’ Medici. Along the way, Lafferty treats the reader to an in-depth
portrait of the history and customs of this ancient city.
Raised by her aunt and uncle amidst the rolling hills of the Tuscan
countryside, young orphan Virginia Tacci has always harbored a deep love for
horses—though she knows she may never have the chance to ride. As a shepherdess
in sixteenth-century Italy, Virginia’s possibilities are doubly limited by her
peasant class and her gender. Yet while she tends her flock, Virginia is
captivated by the daring equestrian feats of the high-spirited Isabella de’
Medici, who rides with the strength and courage of any man, much to the horror
of her brother, the tyrannical Gran Duca Francesco de’ Medici.
the young shepherdess keeps one dream close to her heart: to race in Siena’s
Palio. Twenty-six years after Florence captured Siena, Virginia’s defiance will
rally the broken spirit of the Senese people and threaten the pernicious reign
of the Gran Duca. Bringing alive the rich history of one of Tuscany’s most famed
cities, this lush, captivating saga draws an illuminating portrait of one girl
with an unbreakable spirit.
We round out our tour of Italy in sixteenth-century Venice with THE GONDOLA MAKER by Laura Morelli. Eldest son
of a family involved for three generations in crafting the graceful boats that
define the city, Luca Vianello knows he is expected to take over the business
and make a marriage that will solidify the family’s position. But a fateful
accident has Luca exiling himself from the city of his birth, setting him on a
long, complex journey to find himself and his home again. Full of fascinating
details about both Venice and the process of gondola-making, Morelli’s story
immerses the reader in the smells, tastes and feel of Italy.
From the author of Made in Italy comes a tale of artisanal tradition
and family bonds set in one of the world's most magnificent settings:
When Luca Vianello, the heir to a renowned
gondola-making enterprise, experiences an unexpected tragedy in the boatyard, he
believes that his destiny lies elsewhere. Soon he finds himself drawn to restore
an antique gondola with the dream of taking a girl for a ride.
historical fiction will appreciate the authentic details of gondola
craftsmanship, along with an intimate first-person narrative set against the
richly textured backdrop of 16th-century Venice.
Are your bags packed yet? Or are you content to remain a mental traveller? In
either case, here’s to a glass of fine Italian wine, and “cent’anni!”
Real, intense, passionate historical romance
After twelve years as a vagabond Navy wife, an adventure that took her from
Virginia Beach, VA, to Monterrey, CA, to Tunis, Tunisia to Oslo, Norway and
back, Julia Justiss followed her husband to his family's East Texas
homeland. On a hill above a pond with a view of pasture land, they built an
English Georgian-style home. Sitting at her desk there, if she ignores the
summer heat, she can almost imagine herself in Jane Austen's Regency
In between teaching high school French and making jaunts to visit
her three children (a Seabee in Gulfport, MS, a clothing buyer in Houston and a
mechanical engineer in Austin, TX) she pursues her first love—writing
Leader of Hadley’s Hellions, a group of outsiders who bond together at Oxford
vowing to reform Society, Giles Hadley wants nothing to do with the earl, his
father who banished him, or his stepbrother George, who is the bane of his
existence. But he’s curious about the woman rumor says George is to marry,
daughter and political hostess of prominent Tory Lord Witlow.
part, Lady Maggie finds angry rebel Giles far more fascinating than George—so
fascinating, that though she has no intention of risking her heart after losing
her beloved husband, she might just be tempted into an affair…
1 comment posted.
Re: The Romance Of Italy
I will add these to my TBR list. My ancestor is Titian from
Italy. I am from West Texas, Monahans and still miss not
living there. Thanks to both of you for your service to our
(Leona Olson 8:14am February 20, 2016)
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