One murder ignites the powder keg that consumes a Florence under the iron rule of the powerful Medici family. Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a dangerous plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed.
Seeking to wrest power, members of the Pazzi family draw blades in church and slay the beloved Giuliano. But Lorenzo de’ Medici survives the attack, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe.
Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought-after painting before she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era—the peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci.
It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place.
Historical fiction at its finest, Donna Russo Morin begins the Da Vinci’s Disciples series with a novel both vibrant and absorbing, perfect for the readers of Sarah Dunant.
“...a page-turner unlike any historical novel, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition...a masterful writer at the peak of her craft.”—C. W. Gortner, author of THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE’ MEDICI
“A 15th-century Florence of exquisite art, sensual passion and sudden, remorseless violence comes vividly to life in Donna Russo Morin's new novel.”—Nancy Bilyeau, author of THE CROWN
“In PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY, Russo Morin's rich detailing transports the reader to the heart of Renaissance Italy from the first page.”—Heather Webb, author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE
“Illicit plots, mysterious paintings, and a young Leonardo da Vinci all have their part to play in this delicious, heart-pounding tale.”—Kate Quinn, author of THE EMPRESS OF ROME SAGA
“This riveting book is filled with art, assassinations, retribution, and a sisterhood of fascinating women who inspire as well as entertain.”—Stephanie Dray, author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER
“In PORTRAIT OF A CONSPIRACY, Russo Morin's prose is as sharp as a Medici dagger...Thwarting danger, finding love, and creating masterpieces, [these women] remind us just how powerful the bonds of womanhood can be.”—Marci Jefferson, author of THE ENCHANTRESS OF PARIS
Morin (The Secret in the Glass) makes the most of her original premise in this promising series debut set in Renaissance Florence. The plot hits the ground running as patron of the arts Giuliano de' Medici, who's the co-ruler of Florence with his brother, Lorenzo, is stabbed to death in broad daylight, a crime that sets Lorenzo on a bloody quest for revenge. Meanwhile, a secret group of women artists enlists none other than Leonardo da Vinci in an unusual scheme. The women, led by Viviana del Marrone, the wife of a brutish merchant, plan to alter a painting entitled The Feast of Herod so that the faces of the conspirators behind Giuliano's murder are included. To succeed, they need Leonardo's expertise, and Morin provides just the right amount of detail about the master's methods. The prose can be a bit florid (blood "gushed upon a bleached existence, a mortal rip in the fabric of a world gone mad"), but Morin intelligently blends fact and fiction.