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

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli
Author: Alyssa Palombo
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: 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.

     Alyssa Palombo’s The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence vividly captures the dangerous allure of the artist and muse bond with candor and unforgettable passion.

     My Review: Simonetta is the daughter of a Genoese nobleman. One day, a suitor from Florence arrives named Marco Vespucci. Simonetta is excited at the prospect to live in Florence, a city where art and literature thrives. When she arrives in Florence, her beauty is the center of attention. A painter named Sandro Botticelli wishes to paint her. However, Simonetta realizes that being labeled as “the most beautiful woman in Florence” is not as thrilling as it appears to be. Her marriage to Marco has become unstable, and she grows increasingly attracted to Sandro. Can Simonetta defy the expectations of Florentine society and follow her heart?

    Simonetta is a really likable character. There were moments in this book that showed that she was a strong and capable woman. She is a lover of literature and wishes that she could have expanded her education. She believes that her beauty is cursed and does not wish to be in the limelight. She also dreams of falling in love and having a happy marriage with her husband. Thus, while she is naive and a dreamer in the beginning, she matures over the course of the novel. She fights for her independence. She is not afraid to stand up to those who have done her wrong. And, even though she suffers periodically from illness, she has a healthy and strong mind.

   Overall, this book is about marriage and the expectations within the Florentine society. Simonetta strives to be a good Florentine woman. She wants to be a model wife despite the attentions of men because of her beauty. Yet, her husband only treats her as his trophy wife. I would have liked more character developments from the other characters, especially Botticelli. He did not show much character growth, and there really isn’t any reason why Simonetta was attracted to him except that he painted her portrait. The story seemed rushed at times. The novel also suffered from showing and not telling. As a reader, I didn’t feel captured in that moment. I did not feel their great romance, and instead I was being told that they had a great love for each other. Still, I recommend this for fans of Renaissance art. The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence is perfect for fans of Da Vinci’s Tiger (in which Simonetta is a major character in the novel), The Birth of Venus, and The Botticelli Secret.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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