Foreword: Dear readers, I am only human. Sometimes, despite how productive I want my reading to be, I can’t help but gravitate towards the trashiest books possible… and boy, did I pick a winner with this one! I was on a bit of an Italy splurge when I picked this up, as I had just returned from traveling through the country.
Caterina is a fourteen year old girl when she falls pregnant. Denounced by the father and by her community, she is compelled to live a life of shame, with only her child, Leonardo, and her brother-in-law to give her comfort. With the growth of her child and his eventually move to the city of Florence, she creates an elaborate plan of disguise to follow him and live in a golden age of thought and culture. However, she must conceal her real identity, although the pitfalls of love stand in her way.
Because she’s hot, so what else could possibly stand in her way? Not society, not gender. Only true love!
When I started reading this book, I was immediately dissatisfied by the writing. I found it to be simplistic and overly romantic. As Robin’s style did improve, I am confused about whether this was because she was writing in the thoughts of a 14 year old girl or whether she just wasn’t comfortable with the character yet. Whatever the reason was, I was really pleased to see her writing evolve and become suitable for the political and philosophical content that would eventually grace the pages of this book.
Caterina herself could have been written better. Anyone who is familiar with the term ‘mary-sue,’ will be able to see those qualities in Caterina, especially as the story unwinds. For example, she may be poor but she’s highly educated. She may be disguised as a man but she (of course) gains the love of the most famous man in the city. Of course. And then she becomes part of a cult and then somehow becomes a political powerhouse, consulting with the pope of all people. While this may have been set out really well in Robin’s mind, the way she translates it to paper is really poor and therefore doesn’t justify why all of this is happening to Caterina. I found it difficult to follow it in a believable fashion, especially as Caterina simply gains more and more skills without any faults.
I also found her handling of history to be quite poor. I admire her inclusion for issues of homosexuality, philosophical clubs, the religious upheaval of the time and the descriptions of the landscape. However, she over glorified many characters, particularly Lorenzo who is explained as a gentle kind hearted man, never mind that the Medici family were absolute tyrants of their time. She also cast the Pope in a glossed way, which is hilarious, considering that he is single-handedly one of histories examples of a political power turned evil, greedy and malicious. I think if she had omitted alot of the political conspiracies and focused on Caterina’s issues with the Medici family, yet her love for Lorenzo, the book would have been more consistent with its romance and drama theme. I also don’t understand how Caterina would have been able to hide her gender in all the time she was disguised. Robin simply never mentions the fact that she NEVER gets her period ever again. Even if the woman was malnutrition at one point, the food and exercise she would have consumed and done in Florence would have been sustainable enough to support a period. While not on a monthly scale, at least a few times a year. Lorenzo and her have wild sex all the time and yet never does Caterina reflect on the issue of pregnancy. It’s really frustrating, especially as a woman, to not be able to relate to another woman on one of the biggest issues with concealing gender. It’s also frustrating becomes pretty much the entire book revolves around a past pregnancy and its effects.
However, Robin manages to create a crescendo of drama in the book that kept me absolutely riveted. I loved the drama of her being disguised and even though I was really annoyed at her portrayal of the medici family, I loved Lorenzo as a character. For the absolute readability of the book, I have given it a three star rating. But, she really disappointed in some areas which could have been fixed by a few more paragraphs of explanation. Therefore, I can’t give her a higher rating for depth of research or character believability/growth.
Would I recommend this book? Maybe. BUT, I would be very frank about the areas that displeased me about it. And there were many areas that displeased me.
For the love of all things holy I hope this never becomes a movie, audiobook or t.v. show.