A baby is dropped off at a convent in Florence in 1914. Nothing is known about her family, and she is raised by nuns as an orphan. The only remarkable thing about her is a tiny key wrapped up in her swaddling clothes. She grows up to be an educated young woman, an accomplished musician, but because of her lack of family background she can only hope to make it as a governess, so she is sent to a wealthy but strange family to serve. Tuscan Rose is her story, and a wild story it is!
Set against the backdrop of the rise of Fascism in Italy and through World War II, and with a few almost supernatural elements thrown in the mix, this novel is an engaging read. As the sheltered young woman is thrown into the real world of Italian society during the Mussolini era, we see sometimes fantastic, sometimes horrifying realities through her eyes. But although she is somewhat naive, and although some pretty crazy things happen to her, Rosa is not a pushover, and she makes things happen for herself in very satisfying ways.
This is the type of book it's difficult to write about without revealing too many secrets and plot twists, because they are many, and kept me up until 3 AM on Saturday night because I just couldn't put it down. Suffice it to say, with the setting and the subject matter, some pretty intense stuff goes down. Well-written historical fiction is probably my favorite genre of "entertainment" fiction reading. The Australian author, Belinda Alexandra, seems to have written several of this type of book, although a search of Amazon doesn't yield much so they must have been published more overseas. I'm excited to have learned about this author and will look for more of her work in the future!
I was provided an ebook copy of Tuscan Rose to review by the publisher, Simon and Schuster.