We’re so pleased to welcome author Heloise West and the Ardent blog tour to TNA. I love the topic of conversation today, and there’s also a giveaway, so be sure to check out those details below.
I love second hand books. Maybe it annoys some readers, but I always love reading other people’s margin notes—it’s like eavesdropping on the conversation the reader/student had with the text.
For Ardent, a novel set in Renaissance Italy, and for most historical research, one book leads to the next, and to the next. Sometimes you get to know the players in academic research, and if you read enough introductions and forwards, you get to know where the lines are drawn, who drew them, and who crossed them.
I’m also very found of my e-reader, but if I hadn’t found this particular book: Male Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe (Kent Gerard and Gert Hekma, editors, Harrington Park Press, 1989) I wouldn’t have found the treasure it contained.
Not just the essays and the student marginalia, but the love letter written on the front pages of the book—to Allen from Will.
Ironically, the book itself contains many essays that use letters as evidence, a testament to the endurance of the written word, whether given in evidence at a sodomy trial or love letters that survived both the times and the passing of time. The poetry of Michelangelo is outstanding, though he never meant it for publication.
At times, Will’s handwriting is difficult to interpret, but some of the lines stand out.
“Allen I feel anxious. What will happen if you decide not to see me anymore-it feels as if you always have. I dream about you, all day, in class, in the library, while I’m sleeping. I feel like I’m going crazy. Only in the past few days have I realized how much my life would change if we weren’t together. I feel powerless-I can’t deny how much I need you want you love you…”
(Oh, lord, haven’t we all been there…)
“I want you to love the part of me that I think first attracted you to me. The part that has been relatively silent and unseen since I graduated from H.S…”
It’s possible Allen never saw the letter from Will, as it sometimes seems as if Will is addressing his feelings more than he’s addressing Allen. He doesn’t say what he loves about Allen or speak on their shared memories (unless some of that is just the unreadable part, but I don’t think so).
Then again, they might have had a lover’s quarrel… “Please give me another chance. I really want to be good to you to dance w/ you and travel, make love, write…”
There’s no answer from Allen written here, so maybe this was a first draft of the letter Will eventually sent to Allen. The same handwriting marks the essays in the book and margins, so we can assume it’s Will’s book. There is no other marginalia with different handwriting if there would be if the book had been passed on to another student.
I think what surprises me the most is that Will let the book loose on the world, his heart flying between the pages for anyone to see. What might it say about Will or what happened to him? Is he writing? Are he and Allen together, did his words have the power to keep Allen by him?
So many what ifs for Romance authors.
How would you like this story to end? Comment below 🙂
About the Book
Author: Heloise West
Publisher: Manifold Press
Release Date: February 1st 2017
Genre: Historical MM Romantic Suspense
BLURB: 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.
The village of Torrenta, Tuscany, June 1475
The sun thrust warm fingers into the ancient Tuscan earth. The gray-green leaves of the olive trees shimmered, and the woods beyond beckoned Morello to abandon the painters’ workshop for their cool refuge.
In the growing heat the apprentices inside settled into an afternoon nap, curled on benches in dark corners behind him. The harsh fumes of linseed oil and varnish had irritated Morello all morning, and he was unable to sleep in the miasma. Perhaps before their visitors from Florence arrived, he might escape the heat. A long tramp in the woods pulled at his bones.
He reached for the walking stick behind the door, but a horse’s whinny stopped him, and a man’s voice called out. When no one stirred within to answer, he cursed the sleepers and stomped back through the shop, thwarted. In the lane in front of the workshop, two men removed packs from their horses.
“Good day, Master Zeno!” From the doorway, Morello called to the older of the two. “You made good time!”
At the sound of Morello’s voice, the apprentices roused themselves from sleep and peered around him.
The gray-haired master raised his hand and smiled. “Good day, Master Morello.”
Master Zeno’s companion, a tall young man with flowing golden hair, took the older man’s pack for him and shouldered the straps of both.
“Take their horses to the stable and fetch Master Franco,” Morello ordered the apprentices, and they hurried to obey.
Master Zeno’s journeyman brushed dust from the sleeve of his sweat-stained linen shirt, slapped more dust from his long thighs, and ran a forearm across his brow. His smile was uncertain as his glance met Morello’s.
Donato stood at the window yawning and scratching his stomach. He shaded his eyes for a better look into the misty glare of the afternoon. “Who’s the beauty with the master?”
Donato’s fellow journeyman Primo jumped to his feet and crowded against Morello in the doorway. “Can it be? He’s brought Tagliaferro?”
Donato groaned. “The man you’ve been mooning about since you last went to Florence, Primo? You’ve only just finally shut up about him.”
Morello ignored them. His irritation over his interrupted walk had vanished. Primo’s garlic- and onion-laden breath on his neck registered only remotely. He gazed out at the man from Florence, who, in Morello’s memory, had once been a long-legged boy with a head of yellow fluff too big for his skinny body. Morello stepped out into the sunlight that appeared to pour itself over the grown man, and stretched out his hand in greeting. Maintaining frank eye contact, Benedetto Tagliaferro adjusted the packs and took his hand.
When flesh met flesh, Morello stumbled – at least, his heart did. As if the wind from the beating wings of the love-inspiring putti he had painted just that morning pushed them toward each other.
“Do you remember me?” Benedetto asked with the shadow of that boy’s grin.
About the Author
Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of thirteen years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.
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