The Shepherdess of Siena: A Novel of Renaissance Tuscany
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Raised by her aunt and uncle amidst the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside, young orphan Virginia Tacci has always harbored a deep love for horses—though she knows she may never have the chance to ride. As a shepherdess in sixteenth-century Italy, Virginia’s possibilities are doubly limited by her peasant class and her gender. Yet while she tends her flock, Virginia is captivated by the daring equestrian feats of the high-spirited Isabella de’ Medici, who rides with the strength and courage of any man, much to the horror of her brother, the tyrannical Gran Duca Francesco de’ Medici.
Inspired, the young shepherdess keeps one dream close to her heart: to race in Siena’s Palio. Twenty-six years after Florence captured Siena, Virginia’s defiance will rally the broken spirit of the Senese people and threaten the pernicious reign of the Gran Duca. Bringing alive the rich history of one of Tuscany’s most famed cities, this lush, captivating saga draws an illuminating portrait of one girl with an unbreakable spirit.
“What’s that?” Ferdinando was startled out of his reverie. His face grew pale. Could Morgante know about the painter from Siena? “Here in this room,” said Morgante. “A man who wore a black silk scarf. There was a look in his eyes that chilled my heart. I remember thinking a man like that could murder a princess.” Ferdinando sat up, unfolding his hands. He breathed freely now. Of course. The death of Isabella. So many de’ Medici deaths. And even though he now knew Morgante
CHAPTER 34 CHAPTER 35 CHAPTER 36 PART III Murder in Tuscany CHAPTER 37 CHAPTER 38 CHAPTER 39 CHAPTER 40 CHAPTER 41 CHAPTER 42 CHAPTER 43 CHAPTER 44 CHAPTER 45 CHAPTER 46 CHAPTER 47 CHAPTER 48 CHAPTER 49 CHAPTER 50 CHAPTER 51 CHAPTER 52 PART IV The Heroine of Siena CHAPTER 53 CHAPTER 54 CHAPTER 55 CHAPTER 56 CHAPTER 57 CHAPTER 58 CHAPTER 59 CHAPTER 60 CHAPTER 61 CHAPTER 62
as a bone. She is the girl I was telling you about who trains horses for my father.” “Ah, but how incredible, her control of that horse! Did you see how she sat its rearing? Did you see how he shied away from the donkey cart like a bolt of lightning? She sat bareback as if she were a part of the horse.” “She is getting better at horsemanship,” said Giorgio, rubbing his chin. “Still, she should not have taken—” “Giorgio! You act as if we see una donna, a young woman, ride like that
shifted my stare. A man dressed elegantly in black silk taffeta stared back at me, his eyes glittering in the blazing candlelight. “That is di Torreforte,” said Giorgio in my ear. “Make sure you know him.” I felt a chill, but I stared at him in the flickering candlelight, absorbing his features. “If you see him near you, you are in danger,” said Giorgio. “He is my enemy. He will stop at nothing to see us fail.” I did not shift my eyes away from the man’s stare, but met it with
a conversa, a lay laborer at the convent. Her white head scarf was tied tight, hiding her hair. She carried a clay pitcher of water. “I am Margherita, your serving girl. It is part of your dowry that I should serve you in order to better serve God.” “My dowry? I—no! I am not a postulant. I am a horse trainer!” Margherita averted her eyes as if she were speaking to God. “Give me patience to help serve you,” I was sure she was saying. “If we hurry with your ablutions, you will