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The Daughter of Siena    by Marina Fiorato Amazon.com order for
Daughter of Siena
by Marina Fiorato
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Griffin, 2011 (2011)
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* * *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley

The bestselling author of The Botticelli Secret presents readers with another historical novel set in Italy. Siena, once controlled by the powerful contradas, is now ruled by Duchess Violante Medici, whose presence the contrada captains begrudgingly tolerate. Violante has a secret sorrow. The Medici princess has never stopped loving her deceased husband, Ferdinando, though he preferred the company of men to his wife. Violante also mourns the loss of her twin sons, the result of the one night she shared a bed with her husband.

Siena is also the home of Pia Tolomei, a decendent of the great Egyptian queen Cleopatra, and daughter of the Captain of the Owlet contrada. On her birthday, Pia's father announces that she is to wed Vicenzo Caprimulgo, the Eagle contrada heir. Pia is horrified that her long dreaded wedding day has finally arrived, especially when the first encounter with her cruel fiancÚ promises a life of abuse and misery.

Before Pia and Vicenzo wed, Vicenzo must participate in the Palio, a horserace event steeped in tradition for all of Siena. As Pia watches her future husband with a heavy heart, she sees Riccardo Bruni. Pia watches the mysterious horseman with awe. His exceptional beauty and regal demeanor capture her imagination, and she imagines what it would be like to be engaged to the handsome stranger instead of the cold hearted beast to whom her father promised her.

Vicenzo Caprimulgo is reputed to be the best horseman in all Siena, but he unexpectedly falls to his death moments before winning the race. Riccardo Bruni attempts to the help the Eagle heir, but he dies. Pia believes fate has smiled upon her, but before she can return to her father, the Eagles claim her for Vicenzo's younger brother, Nello. Nello is just as abusive and corrupt as his brother, and Pia must find a way to escape before she is forced to share Nello's bed.

Pia's new home with the Eagle contrada quickly becomes a prison for her. Only the appearance of Riccardo Bruni gives Pia a ray of hope. Riccardo is hired to help Pia learn to ride. After spending hours together, they fall in love. But Pia and Riccardo's love must take a backseat to a plot they have uncovered among Siena's contradas: Siena's oldest families secretly plan a coup to remove Violante Medici from Siena and reinstate the contradas as rulers. Pia, Riccardo, and Violante must work together to save not only Siena, but also Violante and Riccardo, who the contradas plan to sacrifice to take back their city.

The Daughter of Siena is a powerful love story that brings to life the culture of eighteenth-century Siena and the dangerous politics that threatened the stability of the Medici rulers. Pia and Riccardo's star crossed romance will touch your heart, but the contradas' plot to remove Violante Medici steals the show. As time runs out for Siena's ruler, the novel moves at a frantic pace as Pia and Riccardo struggle to save Siena from returning to the hands of the contradas. Historical fiction readers will not want to miss this one, rich in Italian history, art, and mythology.

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