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The Towers of Tuscany by Carol M. Cram: A Book Review

The Towers of Tuscany
Author: Carol M. Cram
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: New Arcadia Publishing
Release Date: 2014
Pages: 388
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Set amid the twisting streets and sunlit piazzas of medieval Italy, The Towers of Tuscany tells the story of a woman who dares to follow her own path in the all-male domain of the painter’s workshop.

     Trained in secret by her father to create the beautifully-crafted panels and altarpieces acclaimed today as masterpieces of late medieval art, Sofia’s desire for freedom from her father’s workshop leads her to betray her passion and sink into a life of loveless drudgery with a husband who comes to despise her when she does not produce a son.

     In an attack motivated by vendetta, Sofia’s father is crushed by his own fresco, compelling Sofia to act or risk the death of her soul. The choice she makes takes her on a journey from misery to the heights of passion—both as a painter and as a woman. Sofia escapes to Siena where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her.

     The Towers of Tuscany unites a strong heroine with meticulously researched settings and compelling characters drawn from the rich tapestry of medieval Italy during one of Europe's most turbulent centuries. The stylishly written plot is packed with enough twists and turns to keep readers up long past their bedtimes.

     My review: Towers of Tuscany tells the story of Sofia, an aspiring artist, who is trapped in society and marriage to her dimwitted husband. After her husband becomes involved in an assassination plot of a wealthy nobleman at a wedding feast that killed many people including her father, Sofia decides to leave her husband and Tuscany. She disguises herself as a boy and travels to Siena in hopes to pursue her art. Her work attracts a nobleman, whom she falls in love with, and she ponders whether she should give up her masquerade.

     To be honest, I had a hard time reading this story. I liked the beginning when she bravely decides to leave her husband and disguises herself as a boy, but when she reaches Siena, Sofia makes poor choices that puts her to where she was in the beginning and worse. I honestly felt like I wasted my time reading this book because you hope that the plot gets better but it does not. And I really didn’t like the ending. I felt that the pointless epilogue which jumps to present day should have been left out.

     I didn’t really like Sofia. The only thing I liked about her was that she left her husband in Tuscany and disguised herself as a boy in Siena.  While the book was trying to show how hard it was for a woman to be herself in a patriarchal society, I didn’t really get that in the book. To me, the book was filled with a lot of what-ifs mostly based on Sofia’s decisions. I wondered if she married her husband's younger brother, who is smarter and adored and respected his wife instead or the man who loved and respected her later in the novel, would she have been happier? Instead, Sofia was shallow. She chose the handsome, selfish men that believed that a woman’s place in society is to produce sons and nothing more.

    Overall, this book is filled with romance, betrayal, and choices. It is about a woman looking to be herself. While I didn’t like the characters, I found the setting to be beautifully described. The book is very well-written. It is just that this book wasn’t for me. I recommend this book to anyone interested in art and medieval Italy.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars

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