Elizabeth Loupas returns with her most ambitious historical novel yet, a story of intrigue, passion, and murder in the Medici Court...
April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.
Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.
Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secret s even to love her or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?
ABOUT THE BOOK :
Published by: Penguin Group
Genre: Historical Fiction
Author: Elizabeth Loupas
ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
The Bookish Dame is delighted to host Ms Loupas today with an author interview. Thank you so much for joining us, Elizabeth! Love your interesting life, and it's so great to share it with our readers. Let's get right to it...
1) Tell us something about yourself, please. How do most people describe you?
Most people would probably describe me as kind of solitary and stay-at-home. I suspect I’m the only writer in the world who grew up reading Little Women and wanted to be Beth.
Briefly, from where did the idea for your novel come from?
When I was researching The Second Duchess, I learned that Barbara of Austria and her younger sister Joanna traveled south from Austria together and were married at virtually the same time—Barbara to Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, and Joanna to Francesco de’ Medici, Prince of Florence. This intrigued me, and in early drafts of The Second Duchess, there were actually scenes in which Joanna (in Florence called Giovanna) visited Barbara in Ferrara. Those scenes were cut (primarily because they would have been historically inaccurate), but I didn’t forget Giovanna. A little reading about Francesco uncovered the fact that he was historically obsessed with alchemy, and the story pretty much exploded from there.
2) Who first told you that you could write well, and how did it affect you?
The first person who encouraged me to write stories (as opposed to school “reports”) was my junior high school home room and English teacher, Maida Dugan. How I adored her! I wrote rambling romantic tales (even then I loved historical fiction) for her and she commented on them very kindly and patiently. I wish I could talk to her today and coax her to tell me what she really thought!
She also assigned us poems to memorize, and I always chose the long story-poems—Poe and Browning and Longfellow. To this day I’ll start reeling off lines and lines of poetry when something jogs my memory, much to the amazement of my husband.
3) Which contemporary authors do you most admire?
This will vary from day to day, depending on my mood. Some contemporary authors I’m reading at the moment are Deanna Raybourn, Lisa Brackmann, Kate Quinn, Sharon Kay Penman, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Kate Morton. I hate making lists like this because I want to include hundreds of authors!
4) Who are your favorite classical authors?
This is another case of wanting to make a huge list of thousands of names. The swashbucklers, of course—Dumas, Baroness Orczy, Sabatini, Shellabarger, Dunnett. My beloved comfort reads—E.F. Benson, Angela Thirkell, Miss Read, E.M. Delafield, Flora Thompson. Jane Austen, the Brontes, Elizabeth Gaskell, Nathanial Hawthorne. The Pre-Raphaelites—the Rossettis, Swinburne, and Browning, of course, although he wasn’t technically a Pre-Raph. Oh, and now that I’ve strayed into poetry, Edwin Arlington Robinson. Sorry, I’ll stop now.
5) What was your first book as a child? What’s your all-time favorite book?
The first books I owned were Little Golden Books. (Am I dating myself?) I remember The Pokey Little Puppy and one that had a fuzzy yellow cat—the pictures of the cat were flocked with velvety stuff so you could actually pet them. I was enthralled. I don’t think I have one all-time favorite book. Perhaps the six books of the Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett—it’s all one story, so that would count as one book, right?
6) Best book you’ve read in the past 6 months?
The one I got lost in most deeply was a re-read, ...And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer. It’s enormous and reading it is like living a whole alternate life.
7) What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
The one (which shall remain unidentified) where I was shouted at repeatedly by my boss (who shall remain nameless). Or even worse, was trapped into sitting by while he shouted at someone else. I don’t do shouting well at all. See above about me wanting to be Beth March.
8) What’s your earliest memory?
Being sick with the measles (according to my mother I was about three at the time) and “coloring”—scrawling all over with a bright red crayon—a drawing my older brother brought home from Sunday School. I swear I can still see all those loopy red scribbles. My brother was not amused.
As a child who liked to draw and color, in a family with musical talent, I called myself the “artical” one. I suppose now I’d describe myself as “writacal.”
9) What’s your most treasured possession?
Barring the beagles—and I’m probably more their possession than they are mine—the first thing I’d grab in a fire would be a banker’s box filled with pictures, including the baby book my own mother lovingly created, and my own scrapbooks through the years. Oh, and I suppose the external hard drive I use for computer back-ups, so I’d have all my digital pictures and documents.
10) Are you working on a new novel?
I am! It’s still in very early stages, so I don’t want to talk too much about it, but it will have something to do with the introduction of chocolate to Europe, and a priceless casket of cacao beans that was a Spanish princess’s betrothal gift to a French king...
Oh, so delightful! You certainly are the "artical" one, Elizabeth. I look forward to the next book in your cache. I'm a huge fan!
THE BOOKISH DAME REVIEWS :
This is a delicious book of intrigue, mysticism and glamour. Ms Loupas never fails to pull us into a story. She had me from the first chapter with her brave and brazen young Chiara, and her introduction of the strong and stand-offish Englishman, Ruanno. The chemistry in this book isn't just alchemy!!
Brilliant in details about the time and place of the Medici in Florence, this novel is vivid and engaging. I couldn't help visualizing as I read. Elizabeth Loupas is an alchemist herself with the use of color-effects and characterization. These characters are fiery and beautiful to read about. It's a sophisticated novel, not fluff.
The plot of the story is well-developed with intrigue and mystery. I learned a great deal about the tools and mystique of alchemy, the House of Medici, and the culture of Florence. And the enchanting love story had me turning pages, as well.
This is a "must read" for historical fiction aficionados. You will love the depths the story brings you into. I dare you not to identify with Chiara! I dare you not to be obsessed with the House of Medici in all its glory and madness!
5 stars Deborah/TheBookishDame