Author: Heloise West
Publisher: Manifold Press
In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.
As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.
But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.
Set to the backdrop of Tuscany, from the village of Torrenta to the city of Florence, Ardent is the story of art, passion, love, betrayal, longing, secrets, power, competition and those who would literally kill for the arts. Morello is a master painter in Torrenta and has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment. He is not sure if the vision that led to this creation was a dream or a nightmare, but through it he meets Benedetto and falls fast and hard for him, sharing more than perhaps was wise.
The story is told from Morello and Benedetto’s alternating point of view.
Florence is the capital of Tuscany, the place many women wanted to move after the movie Under the Tuscan Sun (me too, although I liked the house and the scenery even more than the men!) However, Florence is also considered to be where the greatest art was ever created and according to UNESCO, 60% of the world’s most important works of art are located in Italy and approximately half of these are in Florence. Aside from being very interesting to a history nerd like me, it is also key to a story set in Tuscany on the cusp of greats like Leonardo DaVinci! DaVinci moved from apprentice to his own shop in 1477 and this story is set in 1475. While the story starts in Torrenta, the bulk of the story takes place in Florence and what is interesting in that is just how amazing as well as intimidating it must have been to be a painter at that time, in that city, with all that talent. No doubt, it was a dog eat dog industry, as much as it was a passion-filled one, on and off the canvas and serves as the backdrop of this story.
Morello has no family, he was left on church steps as an infant and was raised in the church, then went to work with one of the master painters in the area, Master Franco. In a dream, he had a vision of a color and how to make it work, mimicking the most expensive pigment on the market, crimson red. Master Franco calls upon his cousin, Master Zeno of Florence, to view the piece, who visits with his assistant, Benedetto. Master Zeno suggests Morello may have a competitive edge, but he must be careful since fraud is everywhere in their industry.
Benedetto Tagliaferro has been told for years how beautiful he is, and when he thought he had found love, he was wrong and he has not been able to get past that experience. After spending time together in Torrenta, he knows how Morello feels for him, but says he cannot return his feelings and that Morello should forget him.
The synopsis tells you more of the story, but as a history nerd, I thought the other information was interesting and felt the author had the same interest in both the period and the location as the story was very well written and the whole plot was so well crafted. These are great main and supporting characters, and of course the culture of the village and city play parts in this too. The book has a great pace and really gets hard to put down once all the cards seem to be in play, which is when the author introduces the twists!
If you enjoy period drama that includes romance, some sex scenes, which take on a different type of risk for this period of time, I believe you will enjoy this book. All in all, a very enjoyable read and if you have not read historical romance before, I’d still recommend it since the book also includes intrigue, politics, murder, crimes of passion, so there is lots to enjoy about this book!