Published by St. Martin's Press on April 25th 2017
Genres: Ancient World, Fiction, General, Historical, Romance
A girl as beautiful as Simonetta Cattaneo never wants for marriage proposals in 15th Century Italy, but she jumps at the chance to marry Marco Vespucci. Marco is young, handsome and well-educated. Not to mention he is one of the powerful Medici family’s favored circle.
Even before her marriage with Marco is set, Simonetta is swept up into Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici’s glittering circle of politicians, poets, artists, and philosophers. The men of Florence―most notably the rakish Giuliano de’ Medici―become enthralled with her beauty. That she is educated and an ardent reader of poetry makes her more desirable and fashionable still. But it is her acquaintance with a young painter, Sandro Botticelli, which strikes her heart most. Botticelli immediately invites Simonetta, newly proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Florence, to pose for him. As Simonetta learns to navigate her marriage, her place in Florentine society, and the politics of beauty and desire, she and Botticelli develop a passionate intimacy, one that leads to her immortalization in his masterpiece, The Birth of Venus.
The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence follows Simonetta Vespucci through her life’s triumphs, trials, and associations with the Medici family. Simonetta, a famed beauty of her time, arrives in Florence—a citadel of learning and art—with great hopes pertaining to her marriage and future. What she finds there, instead, was more than she had ever expected. Upon meeting Sandro Botticelli, an artist, she makes a simple choice which later becomes her most famous legacy.
I’m fairly certain most of us have seen the painting, The Birth of Venus, but I’ve never heard of the woman who might have been the muse. Though much is not known of her life, Simonetta was a great beauty of her time and is depicted as an intelligent woman in this story. Strong, capable, and in love with a man she can’t have because she is both married and not his equal. The best parts of the story were when she wasn’t pining over Botticelli. I didn’t care for them as a couple. I’m sorry. Maybe I’m in a really unromantic mood and didn’t care about Simonetta and Sandro for that reason. I loved Simonetta and Clarice’s friendship though. I wish there were more scenes of them.
(+) Good storytelling.
(+) Interesting setting.
(+) Well-rounded characters
(-) Romance I couldn’t get behind.