12 August 2010

Excerpt Thursday: Donna Russo Morin

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming historical fiction author Donna Russo Morin. Her debut THE COURTIER'S SECRET was a finalist in this year's National Readers' Choice Award in the mainstream category, and won the winner of RWI's Best First Book Award. Book Illuminations has chosen her latest release, THE SECRET OF GLASS, as an Outstanding Pick for 2010. Join us Sunday when Donna will be here to talk about her books, answer questions and give away a signed copy.

At the dawn of the 17th Century, the glassmakers of Murano are revered as master artisans, enjoying privileges far beyond their station, but they are forced to live in virtual imprisonment, contained by the greedy Venetian government who fears other countries will learn the intricacies of the craft…and reap the rewards.

Sophia Fiolario, the comely daughter of a glass making maestro, has no desire for marriage, finding her serenity in the love of her family and the beauty of the glass. She learns of its secrets at her father's side, where a woman has no right to be. The life Sophia loves is threatened by the poor health of her father and the determined attentions of a nobleman who could and would never love her but seeks to possess her wealth and the privilege it affords.

Thrust into the opulent world of the Venice court, Sophia becomes embroiled in the scheming machinations of the courtiers' lives. The beauty of Venice, the magnificence of the Doge's Palace, are rivaled only by the intrigue and danger that festers behind their splendid facades. As she searches for an escape, she finds the arms of another, a man whose own desperate situation is yet another obstacle in their path.

Amidst political and religious intrigue, the scientific furor ignited by Galileo, and even murder, Sophia must do anything to protect herself, her family…and the secret of the glass.
***

For the love of God, what are you doing?

The frantic thought flashed through her mind, but she gave it little consideration, she couldn't. If she did, the fear would paralyze her completely.

Waiting impatiently for a scant few seconds, she stole a furtive glance inside and saw only a narrow brick walled opening--barely wide enough for two averaged sized men to walk abreast--and light gray, uneven stone stairs leading to a narrow landing. The first flight of stairs was empty; the group had ascended the landing and turned the corner.

Sophia entered the small foyer and began the almost inconceivable climb to the top. She paced herself, making sure never to catch up with the men ahead of her.

Higher and higher they climbed, slower and slower they moved. Sophia crested another flight, turned another corner, her own young and healthy heart thudding against her chest. An unobstructed beam of sunlight found her, and she crouched low, back into the shaded pit.

The group arrived at the top. Sophia slunk up the last flight of stairs on her hands and knees, keeping close against the cold stone, covering the front of her gown with the gray, sooty dirt. Peeking above the upper most step, she peered furtively into the square landing above. The last of the men to reach the pinnacle clustered together, leaning upon one another in an exhausted group, holding each other up as they caught their breath.

Sophia lunged, using their huddling, groaning mass as a cover, sneaking passed them to hide behind the farthest and largest bell. Within the safety of its unlit silhouette, Sophia looked around. Her full bottom lip lowered in unfettered astonishment. Though she had lived in this land, passed by the tall base of this obelisk all her life, she had never hurdled its stairs, had never seen this magnificent architecture waiting upon its zenith.

"Over here, if you please, Your Honor."

Sophia heard Galileo's call and stole a stealthy peep around the curved edge of the bell. Diagonally opposite from Sophia's position, he stood in the southeast corner of the tower, beckoning the Doge to join him, and extracting a strangely shaped device--long and circular--from his bag.

The other men swarmed around them against the parapet, their hair dancing in the buffeting, powerful wind of the lofty altitude, their low murmurs and questions tripping over one another. Galileo held one end of the lengthy, round cylinder up to his left eye and pointed the other end out toward the lagoon.

"My God!" His cutting whisper, like a fervent prayer, silenced the quizzical, conjecturing voices around him. Without another word, he offered the instrument to the Doge. Galileo sparkled as a dumbstruck, enraptured smile spread upon his face, like a man who had seen his newly born child for the first time.

Donato took the device and held it up to his eye, mimicking Galileo's posture, pointing it out to the glittering ocean. The large man jerked back his head as if struck, and thrust the tube away from his face. The attentive men gathered around him came on guard, heads spinning about searching for the threat, hands drawn to hilts. The Doge's large, horse-like stare spun to Galileo, probing the scientist's face with his questioning glare.

"Yes, yes, it is real." Galileo's long beard quivered from his chin. He smiled with childish joy at Sagredo and the priest who stood close beside him.

The Doge shook his head as if to deny the man's words, but put the instrument back to his eye.

"Holy Mother of God." Donato's breathy whisper ripped the expectant silence to shreds. "It is a miracolo!"

Sophia forced herself not to crow aloud, forced back the joyous laughter that bubbled within before it could forsake her hiding place behind the large bell. She knew what this device was, why this group had gathered upon this tall summit. Galileo had finished his creation, and from the shock upon his face and that of the Doge, it worked stupendously.

2 comments:

M. said...

Beautiful cover, marvellous setting, intriguing excerpt. I'm all agog for
Sunday, especially after recently reading and loving another Italian-set novel, 'The Botticelli Secret'.

Taryn Kincaid said...

What "M." said.

Well, except for the Sunday part. Not sure I'll be able to drop in.

Glad I discovered this blog! Lots of interesting historical info and intriguing books!