May Gold, college adjunct, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis - Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque.
But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend who is paying her way. She yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit, and when the floor under the gilded dome of St Peter’s basilica rocks under her feet, she gets her chance. Walking through the veil that appears, she finds herself in the year 1624, staring straight into Bernini’s eyes. Their immediate and powerful attraction grows throughout May’s tour of Italy. And as she continues to meet her ethereal partner, even for brief snatches of time, her creativity and confidence blossom. All the doorways to happiness seem blocked for May-all except the shimmering doorway to Bernini’s world.
May has to choose: stay in her safe but stagnant existence, or take a risk. Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one?
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Author Rachel Dacus in The Renaissance Club captures the frenetic activity of a three-week, multi-city art tour of Italy with a group of art historians and artists known as The Renaissance Club. Dacus’s protagonist and other tour members whiz through museums so fast the art works blend together. Dacus’s protagonist, May Gold, is an adjust professor at a third-rate school, living with an older lover, also an art historian. May wrote her thesis on Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the golden child of the Baroque period: architect, city planner, painter, sculptor, and writer/director/set designer. May fantasizes about being Bernini’s lover. On this tour, she learns that time is not always linear and has folds that people can walk in and out of. Slipping through one of these folds, she encounters Bernini, falls in love with him, and seriously considers leaving the 21st century and settling in the 17th. I enjoyed The Renaissance Club immensely. I lived in Italy for several years and have seen the art works and the museums, etc., that Dacus captures so well. Like the members of the club, in the company of an art historian spouse, I’ve stood in awe before Michelangelo’s David and Bernini’s Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence. Thus I can verify that Dacus’s art historical/travelogue perspective is excellent. She captures the essence of Rome, Florence, Venice, and other cities the tour visits. Less compelling, however, is the romance between May and Gian Lorenzo. Their time together during these folds in time is minimal and not really enough to fully develop their relationship. In short, if you enjoy art and travelogues with an Italian bent, you’ll enjoy The Renaissance Club. If you are expecting a full-blown, steamy romance, you’ll be disappointed.