Review: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli by Alyssa Palombo

Last year I had the pleasure of being introduced to Alyssa Palombo’s debut novel, The Violinist of Venice, a love story about Antonio Vivaldi. I love how Palombo takes relatively well known and passionate artists (musicians and painters) and crafts a historical fiction novel.

People like Antonio Vivaldi and in this book, Sandro Botticelli, aren’t characters that I would think of in history and decide to write a romantic novel about them which is what makes these books so unique to me.

A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.

Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence―most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty.

That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him.

As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus (summary from Goodreads).

Botticelli was a famous Renaissance painter and it goes without saying that he was probably a very passionate person in order to create such stunning paintings. There is something about composers and painters that just screams ‘passion’ and romanticism so seeing Botticelli as a romantic individual was easy in this book. While I am not personally interested in Renaissance art, the romanticism surrounding the period and painter worked well in this book and made me enjoy reading it!

Simonetta is a very powerful character. At times she was clearly nieve about life but she as smart and I thought the author did the character justice and created a balanced innocent but yet intelligent character. I also loved how the sexual tension and attraction built between Simonetta and Botticelli. It wasn’t like this all consuming attraction but something that steadily grew into something beautiful and I thought the author did a great job with that.

One thing that stood out to me was how much I wanted to know more about Botticelli. I found myself Googling and researching his works and his life. I thought Palombo did a wonderful job creating a believable and plausible story for the characters.

I felt like this book was a fairly fast read, but what took me so long to finish it was my research. I kept getting distracted by things I was reading about the characters on the internet. I thought Palombo did a fantastic job creating a realistic world and realistic characters who were interesting and genuine. I was so absorbed in learning more about the characters in real life which I felt like enriched the novel for me.

The other thing I wanted to comment on was how beautiful the cover of this novel was. It hints at romanticism (which this book has in spades) and mystery. It’s eye catching with the vibrant colors and I immediately wanted to read it because it stood out. The cover did the story justice. It was a lyrical story that brought obscure historical figured to life in a colorful and illuminating way. I would highly encourage readers to check out the author’s historical notes at the end of the book as well….looks of wonderful info to be had there!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli by Alyssa Palombo

  • Kindle edition, 320 pages
    Expected publication: April 25th 2017 by St. Martin’s Griffin
    125007150X (ISBN13: 9781250071507)
  • Review copy provided by: Author/Publisher in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 4 out of 5

Genre: Romance, historical fiction

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