Portrait of A Conspiracy
Da Vinci’s Disciples, Book #1
By Donna Russo Morin
Author website: http://www.donnarussomorin.com
Seeking to wrest power from the Medici family in 15th Century Florence, members of the Pazzi family drew their blades in a church and slew Giuliano. But Lorenzo de’ Medici survives, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos that takes dozens of lives. 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 skills, 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 as she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend and see her safe. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era – the 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.
I was not expecting the story that unfolded in Portrait of Conspiracy to be so intense and be so in depth. I have always enjoyed knowing just the fringes of the Medici family and some minor information about Renaissance era life. Author Donna Russo Morin did an outstanding and extensive work in researching not only the brutality of the horrors that ran rampant in the Florence streets, but also day to day life, artwork, family life, just everything. Every minutiae down to artistic technique for the time is revealed in descriptive narrative that draws the reader in and keeps them involved. The book starts with a festive scene heading to church only to be turned on its head when murder and mayhem rush headlong into the crowd and the story.
After the horror of the scene in the church, five ladies try to get on with their lives. There is a group of six women that meet in secret in a quiet room of the church to learn, practice and perfect their artistic talents. Although forbidden by law, they are able to flourish in this room. As their world is filled with murder, savagery and horrors, their time with art keeps them grounded. One of their own comes up missing after the attack in the church and no one knows where she could have gone. She never left her home alone. A woman of her standing would not do such a thing. Then news comes that she is being sought in connection with the travesty. A painting that may portray those involved in the murderous acts has gone missing and the old woman was seen leaving with something.
Along the way to find their friend and prove her not guilty of such crimes, the 5 ladies are assisted by none other than a young Leonardo Da Vinci. The author gives the reader descriptive windows into the lives of these ladies and their families and those around them. The action is fierce and the stillness is resplendent with intensity of being. The suspense is thrilling and intelligent. The writing is masterful. Each woman is given time for the reader to know them and understand their actions. All the while bodies are being dragged through the streets and thrown out windows. The ladies risk their own lives to help their friend, along with Da Vinci’s help.
Portrait of Conspiracy is a history based on fact fictional tale that is driven by the hearts of these women. I am sure those who revel in historical fiction will love this book and not be able to put it down. The author’s writing style is descriptive and full of power. I was almost overwhelmed with the depth of historical events. I would definitely recommend this tome to lovers of history especially Renaissance Italy and the Medici family. This is the first in a trilogy the author plans centering around Da Vinci’s disciples.