Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 2nd 2012
My Rating: ❀❀❀
Genre: Historical Romance
Florentine silk merchant Giovanni Pietro d’Angelo and his wife want nothing more than to marry their daughters to wealthy men of distinction. But when their son’s dangerous indiscretion implicates him in a tragic accident, it is their eldest daughter who must pay the price. Blackmailed by the powerful and debauched Sebastiano Rovere, the Pietro d’Angelos must give beautiful Bianca in marriage to Rovere to buy his silence.
With the aid of her mother, Bianca flees her dark, cruel union, seeking shelter in a seaside villa. It is the shocking murder of her husband that allows her to find the possibility of love at last. But Florentine society would never approve of the man she’s chosen: Prince Amir, grandson of Memhet the Conqueror.
Two passionate lovers...two different cultures...two worlds determined to keep them apart...
I will say that I read many reviews before I decided to read this novel. The premise sounded so good, yet the ratings and reviews were widely varied. And after reading it, I can understand why. The novel is a historical romance, but it felt more like historical fiction to me. Oh, there was romance. But not in the traditional romancelandia way.
The novel opens with Bianca being forced into a marriage to an older man who proves to be cruel and really, evil. When Bianca's mother discovers the disgusting things her daughter has endured, she spirits her away in order to protect her from her husband.
Here begins the romance with a prince who of the Islamic faith. But although Bianca and Amir love each other, this isn't exactly a match that anyone in Christian Europe would accept, so naturally Bianca's family is none too approving. Bianca is nearly forced into another marriage--and here's what I admire about Bianca. After her first marriage, she becomes her own woman, taking a lover and defying her family. She really does flout all the customs and traditions of her family, and society by refusing to take another husband, to be subjugated by a man. Her sister helps her escape this unwanted marriage, and Bianca escapes to Turkey with Amir.
So, is this romance? Women's lit? Historical fiction? A mish mash? It leans more heavily on the romance--Amir and Bianca's romance is a focal point, but Bertice Small hasn't shied away from presenting the issues faced by women during that time period, so therefore, to me, it reads more like historical fiction. Hence why I think readers "like" and "dislike" the book.
Once in Turkey, Bianca has to contend with her sister wives (she's Amir third wife, and the only one he loves) and learn the ways of the world around her. The story becomes slightly more political, but ends happily. Naturally, since this is a romance. However, this portion of the story is the part I struggled with the most. Would a woman of the west really be able to adjust to the customs of Turkey, and share her husband with two other women? Yes, they were all friends, but I wasn't sure that even a logical thinking, liberal woman who loved and trusted her man would be willing to share her man with two other women. Not coming from the upbringing that Bianca came from, even if she had rejected much of what she had been raised to--she had, after all, kept her faith. So, to me, this seemed a little bit much to stretch. Yet Bianca encourages Amir to take his other wives to bed! Yes, perhaps that was to keep the peace, but, I think it asked this reader to suspend too much belief.
Stylistically, this book was a bit drab. The prose didn't captivate me, and was at times, dry. But the story was engaging enough that it was pretty easy to read through. Having never read another novel by this author, I can't compare this work to anything else by this much beloved, and now missed, author. Ms. Small passed away on February 24, 2015, and this reader would like to pay tribute to a lady to made this genre what it is today.