Synopses & Reviews
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 Botticelli...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 somone is ready to kill her to get it back. What could 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 secrets.Gloriously fresh and vivid, with a deliciously irreverent heroine, The Botticelli Secret is an irresistible blend of history, wit, and suspense.
"The city-states of Renaissance Italy serve as the vibrant backdrop for this less than successful homage to The Da Vinci Code from Fiorato (The Glassblower of Murano). In 1482 Florence, while prostitute Luciana Vetra is posing for Botticelli's Primavera, she makes a casual comment that terrifies the artist. Sent away unpaid, Luciana steals a miniature of the painting in revenge. When she discovers that an assassin is on her trail, she flees Florence with the most trustworthy companion she can find, handsome and cultured monk Brother Guido della Torre. As the two decode the secrets hidden in the painting (and fall in love), its meanings send them on a quest through Italy to save their own lives and avert a conspiracy involving the greatest powers of the day. Luciana's energetic narrative voice keeps the pages turning, but lengthy passages deconstructing La Primavera yield secrets, unlike those in Dan Brown's bestseller, with little resonance for modern readers." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“Fiorato creates her own masterpiece set at the height of Medici power. Renaissance Italy comes alive in brilliant sights and sounds from marbled halls to filthy sewers. Luciana is irrepressible, unabashed, and an absolute hoot while Guido foils her nicely as the learned, noble Holmes to her Watson.” -Booklist
Praise for Marina Fiorato's previous novel, THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO:
"Marina Fiorato has fashioned a double tale of artistry, love, and intrigue, plotted as cunningly as her characters commit treachery....It took my breath away." -Susan Vreeland, author of Girl in Hyacinth Blue
"An intriguing mix of history, mystery, art, music, poetry, romance, and politics....Gripping....Writing with charm and authenticity, Fiorato produces a blend of historical mystery and modern romance that is thoroughly entertaining." --Booklist
"Those who enjoy intrigue and European history will be easily drawn into this romantic story." --Publishers Weekly
"Fiorato captivates her reader as surely and intricately as the beautiful city of Venice enchants her characters. A fascinating tale of mystery and dedication, of love and betrayal." --Kate Furnivall, author of The Russian Concubine
"The Glassblower of Murano is a compelling story, richly detailed, with wonderful, memorably drawn characters." --Diane Haeger, author of The Ruby Ring
"Marina Fiorato has beautifully recreated the bright, glittering world of the seventeenth-century glassblower, and nestled it surely within a compelling contemporary romance." --Jeanne Kalogrides, author of The Borgia Bride
About the Author
Marina Fiorato is half-Venetian and a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she specialized in the study of Shakespeares plays as an historical source. She has worked as an illustrator, an actress, and a film reviewer, and designed tour visuals for rock bands including U2 and the Rolling Stones. Her historical fiction includes The Daughter of Siena and her debut novel, The Glassblower of Murano, which was an international bestseller. She was married on the Grand Canal in Venice, and now lives in London with her family.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Questions
1) Few works of art are as celebrated as Sandro Botticellis La Primavera. Keeping in mind that this is only a fictional account of the story behind the famous painting, how did reading the book teach you about—or change your impression of—its subject? Has anyone in the group ever seen the painting in person?
2) What do you think of Luciana? Do you like her more, or less, for her brash conduct? Is a persons moral code something thats written in stone, or is it a result of varying circumstances? Do you think your code of conduct would change if you were poor and hungry?
3) Duplicity is an important theme throughout the book. How is Guido plagued by a feeling of duplicity? In which other characters do we see (or not see) duplicity? Can there be both positive and negative effects of a duplicitous nature?
4) Despite their differences, why do you think Luciana and Guido drawn to each other?
5) Guido, as a man of the cloth, believes in God whereas Luciana, as a woman of the streets, believes only in herself. Throughout the story, both beliefs are called into question. Do you think its more important to have faith in God, or faith in yourself? Are the two mutually exclusive?
6) Discuss the nine cites of Renaissance Italy as a “character” in the book. How is each characterized? And what role does each play in shaping Luciana and Guido?
7) Do you believe that a picture is worth a thousand words? Can a work of art—a painting, or a book—ever truly capture a persons essence? Did Botticellis portrait of Luciana, even as she sat as an archetype, capture hers?
8) The action in this novel is built around several secrets which Luciana and Guido unearth. Discuss the element of mystery in these pages. What made The Botticelli Secret a page-turner for you? What types of narrative devices did the author use to keep the keep the reader guessing?
9) The Botticelli Secret is about strength and frailty, truth and beauty, art and artifice. It is also about the ties that bind us to family—in all its glory and pain. How important is the notion of family to Luciana? Which relationships, regardless of the standard definition of “family,” seem the most real to you in the book?
10) In the story, Sandro Botticelli is an artist but hes also a member of a powerful inner circle. What does The Botticelli Secret suggest about the role and function of art in the Renaissance era? Was it more or less political than today?
11) What do you imagine happens after the end of the novel? What do you think Luciana and Guidos life will be like now that they are free to be together, and Luciana knows her true identity? What truths do you think shell learn about herself?