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The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo

I adored Alyssa Palombo’s first novel The Violinist of Venice, and her latest novel is another passionate novel of love, art, and history. Simonetta Cattaneo was considered a great beauty during the 15th Century, and when Marco Vespucci, a handsome young man highly favoured by the Medici in Florence, asks for her hand in marriage, she accepts with little hesitation.

As soon as Simonetta arrives in Florence from Genoa, she is welcomed into a glittering circle of poets, politicians, artists and writers, and all the men she meets are taken by her beauty. But Simonetta is educated and is eager to learn more about the arts, and the famous Medici family open up their home and their library to her. As she settles into married life, she strikes up a friendship when Sandro Botticelli paints a portrait of her. Later in the book he asks her to pose for another, much more elaborate and intimate portrait – his masterpiece The Birth of Venus.

Meanwhile, Simonetta must find her place in Florentine society and navigate the new world around her, and even with her fabled beauty – will her husband stay faithful to her? Tension is created by the many men who profess to love her, her beauty sometimes feeling more like a curse than a blessing.

Alyssa Palombo has taken the few facts that are known about Simonetta, who was a fabled beauty, and the possible relationship she may have had with Sandro Botticelli, and created a rich historical novel, full of period detail, art and passion. It’s a wonderful read and glimpse into a bygone era.

Macmillan, RRP $34.99


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