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Kathleen Reid
Secrets in the Palazzo

Adult; Romance; (Market)

Newly minted artist Rose Maning is thrilled with the positive reception of her first gallery opening. Her success is empowering, yet the constant demands of work make planning her wedding to Lyon impossible. To complicate matters further, her conservator friend, Beatrice, uncovers a mysterious clue to a centuries-old mystery that involves a lost Leonardo da Vinci painting. Rose heads to the Eternal City of Rome to uncover a fierce rivalry between two of the greatest Renaissance masters: Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. The past and the present intertwine when Beatrice becomes enthralled by a street artist named Mike. He and his nemesis, Vince, create thought-provoking murals that challenge people to look at history through a different lens. As they search for the lost Leonardo, Rose learns some hard lessons about greed and the healing power of love.
For the art-obsessed expats populating Reid’s satisfying escape-to-Italy sequel to Sunrise in Florence, solving a centuries-old mystery seems less difficult than resolving romantic complications. The supportive friendship of American painter Rose Maning and Swiss-born conservator Beatrice von der Layman was built on their shared love of Renaissance masters Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. After Rose finds several Renaissance era drawings hidden in the wall of her apartment, Beatrice digs in to discover their origin–and reveals one is linked to Michelangelo and the other could be related to da Vinci’s mural of the Battle of Anghiari, a lost work covered up by another artist in 1555.

Rose’s past move to Florence to paint full-time and immerse herself in the glorious remnants of the Renaissance—and her whirlwind love affair with Italian real estate agent, Lyon—were the focus of her first adventure with Beatrice. Now, with a gallery show under her belt, she’s focused on her future, but pre-wedding jitters lead to a revelation and shattered engagement. In Rome, Beatrice remains a devoted guardian of art history, even when her attraction to nomadic muralist Mike (whose intensity and talent recall Michelangelo) inspires the realization that she’s funneled all her passion into her work. Beatrice is determined to uncover a lost Leonardo, and Reid deftly balances an enticing art history mystery with heady romance.

Rose and Beatrice’s Italy is a living museum complete with street artists as besotted with the Renaissance as the leads. Sleek charmer Vince continually re-populates da Vinci’s Last Supper table, and the vigorous, unpolished Mike reconfigures classical and mythological iconography. While these rivals challenge societal norms with their confrontational murals, their world–as well as Rose and Beatrice’s–feels removed from contemporary life, a Cinquecento fantasy of art for art’s sake. But readers looking for a romantic escape to an Italy as full of glorious art is as revitalizing as brilliant sunlight and abundant pasta will relish this tale.

Takeaway: Lovers of Renaissance art and lost-masterwork mysteries will appreciate this escape-to-Italy romance.

Great for fans of: Iain Pears’s The Raphael Affair, Paul Christopher’s Michelangelo’s Notebook, and Charlotte and Aaron Elkins’s A Dangerous Talent.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A