Rome, 1520. The Eternal City is in mourning. Raphael Sanzio, beloved painter and national hero, has died suddenly at the height of his fame. His body lies in state at the splendid marble Pantheon. At the nearby convent of Sant’Apollonia, a young woman comes to the Mother Superior, seeking refuge. She is Margherita Luti, a baker’s daughter from a humble neighborhood on the Tiber, now an outcast from Roman society, persecuted by powerful enemies within the Vatican. Margherita was Raphael’s beloved and appeared as the Madonna in many of his paintings. Theirs was a love for the ages. But now that Raphael is gone, the convent is her only hope of finding an honest and peaceful life.
The Mother Superior agrees to admit Margherita to their order. But first, she must give up the ruby ring she wears on her left hand, the ring she had worn in Raphael’s scandalous nude “engagement portrait.” The ring has a storied past, and it must be returned to the Church or Margherita will be cast out into the streets. Behind the quiet walls of the convent, Margherita makes her decision . . . and remembers her life with Raphael—and the love and torment—embodied in that one precious jewel.
Well, if you take a look back at my last posting, you'll know that Roman artists aren't usually my choice for literary focus. I can't decide necessarily how I feel about this book. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Was it my favorite historical fiction novel I've ever read? No. The love story between the two characters was very well done. It made sense where the transition from being stubborn toward one another turned into passion.
I guess my main issue lies with Haeger's writing. Sometimes it seems a bit repetitive in this book, which is something that I did not see in her other work that I've read: Courtesan. I wanted to scream if I heard Margherita referred to one more time as "the baker's daughter." We get it, she's poor and of a lower class than the famous artist. Ultimately, I did enjoy the book and am happy to have it in my personal library at home. I may even reread it someday when my TBR pile dwindles down a bit.
Up next? I'm rereading the Harry Potter series because it's been a year since I've read them all. Laugh if you want to, but I love these books and will gladly spend however much time is necessary to reread all seven of Rowling's masterpieces.