One murder ignites the powder keg that consumes a Florence under the iron rule of the powerful Medici family. Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a dangerous plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed.
Seeking to wrest power, members of the Pazzi family drew blades in church and slew the beloved Giuliano. But Lorenzo de’ Medici survives the attack, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe.
Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought after painting before she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their erathe peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci.
It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place.
Historical fiction at its finest, Donna Russo Morin begins a series of Da Vinci’s disciples with a novel both vibrant and absorbing, perfect for the readers of Sarah Dunant.
"A page-turner unlike any historical novel, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition into the first of a trilogy by a masterful writer at the peak of her craft." - C. W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de’ Medici and The Vatican Princess
About the Author
Donna Russo Morin’s passion for the written word began when she was a child, took on a feminist edge as she grew through the sixties, and blossomed into a distinctive style of action-filled historical fiction. Donna earned two degrees from the University of Rhode Island, and all four of her currently available books are award winners. In addition to writing, teaching writing, and reviewing for literary journals, Donna works as a model and actor; highlights of her work include two seasons on Showtime’s Brotherhood and an appearance in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Donna is the proud mother of two sons, one a future opera singer, the other a future chef.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Whether this story was based in truth or is true fiction, it was entertaining. An underground group of women all have passion in the creative field and in the time that they live in, women aren't welcome to be creative - it is a man's world. Leonardo Da Vinci saw something in the women and wanted to help push their creativity along. At the same time there is major upheaval in Italy and there is war and the women are caught completely in the middle. I don't read a lot that takes place in this time and space, so I just enjoyed reading something out of my usual reads. I loved reading about women defying the custom of the time and instead following their own path even if they may have to do it in secret.
My initial gut reaction is "Wow, what a book!" It appeals to me on many levels: my preference for Italian historical fiction set during the Renaissance, great writing, and stories that border a bit on the dark side. From its first page to last, I throughly loved the story. It is a tale of 5 women who are artists and who must secretly hone their talent. Enter Leonardo da Vinci who befriends the women and becomes their secret tutor. The story opens with attempted murder of L|orenzo de Medici and the murder of Giuliano de Medici. Donna Russo Morin brings this opening scene to life with vivid, shocking detail. She also does not shy away from describing the brutality of the ongoing aftermath when the de Medici family seek revenge against the Pazzi loyalists and conspiracies. The five women soon find themselves surrounded by danger as one of them goes missing with an important painting. Together, they band together to save their friend. I love great women's historical fiction and Donna Russo Morin does a wonderful job with describing the plight of women during this very dangerous era. At the end of the book, she describes what was fact and what was fictional in the story. And there's a wonderful Reader's Guide that is great for book clubs. This is a five star read and I highly recommend it to avid lovers of history. Thank you to the author and publisher. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog, http://greathistoricals.blogspot.ca, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit http://www.historyandwomen.com.
Intense brutality and chaos make the citizens of Florence in 15th Century Italy fearful but lead five women artists to unite against a secret enemy. Viviana, Fiammeta, Isabetta, Natasia and Mattea are painters and sculptors who practice in secret since women are forbidden to work as professional artists. They come from a variety of families, some noble and some poor merchants. When the Pazzi attempts to wrest power, with papal approval, from the noble rulers, the Medici family, a bloodbath follows, ending with the death of Giuliani Medici, revenge against the guilty and the innocent follows. When a painting, The Feast of Herod, and a sixth women artist, Lapaccia, disappear at the same time, the woman is believed to be guilty of the Pazzi and Medici feud and a fierce search begins. Into the mix arrives Leonardo Da Vinci, anxious for revenge against those who killed his dear friend Giuliani but also deeply moved by the talent he recognizes when examining the works of these female artists willing to risk everything for love of their art. The ravages of such conflict is saved in this novel by the perfectly placed descriptions of beauty, strength, hope, reality, love and hate vividly displayed in each production observed, whether in progress or completed. The remainder of the novel introduces the reader to a project these women believe will yield the plot behind all the increasing madness and conflict in Florence. Viviana’s story parallels the larger conflict but is depicted so starkly that one cannot help but root for her deliverance. Da Vinci comes to realize that women are more in touch with their feelings and perceptions about familial and political events than any man could ever experience. He begins to teach them the skills he is admired for and the group becomes bonded to this Master. The ending leads the reader to know that this connection is only just beginning and all are grateful for the knowledge. Portrait of a Conspiracy… is a stunning work of historical fiction that cannot be put down because it is so realistically and artistically captivating. One’s reluctance to read the last page is only modified by knowing more is to follow from this obviously highly skilled writer. This reviewer highly recommends that all read this review, enjoy the comments at the end of the story and share the delight with the Reader’s Guide which ends this first book of Da Vinci’s disciples. Stunning, passionate and memorable read!
Portrait of a Conspiracy is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The story opens amidst a bloodbath of violence between the Pazzi and the Medici. Thrust into the midst of political upheaval and revenge are six women artists united through their love of art (despite coming from very different backgrounds and social classes) who practice their respective artistic skills with utmost secrecy. When one of their fellow artists goes missing, they set out on dangerous missions to find her before she is found by those seeking revenge. A painting mysteriously disappears at the same time and the five remaining women must determine why the painting is so important. A surprise is the involvement of Leonardo da Vinci as a young man. He becomes their mentor and confidante and it is interesting to imagine him as a real person apart from his life as a painter. Although this book is described as historical fiction, I would add “thriller” and “mystery” to describe the book. The subplots keep you turning the pages until its ultimately satisfying conclusion. Although not based on historical incidences, Portrait of a Conspiracy is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The story opens amidst a bloodbath of violence between the Pazzi and the Medici. Thrust into the midst of political upheaval and revenge are six women artists united through their love of art (despite coming from very different backgrounds and social classes) who practice their respective artistic skills with utmost secrecy. When one of their fellow artists goes missing, they set out on dangerous missions to find her before she is found by those seeking revenge. A painting mysteriously disappears at the same time and the five remaining women must determine why the painting is so important. A surprise is the involvement of Leonardo da Vinci as a young man. He becomes their mentor and confidante and it is interesting to imagine him as a real person apart from his life as a painter. Although this book is described as historical fiction, I would add “thriller” and “mystery” to describe the book. The subplots keep you turning the pages until its ultimately satisfying conclusion. Although not based on historical incidences, it is interesting to imagine how much artwork was actually produced by women during this time period.