Welcome to my stop for the blog tour of The Competition by Donna Russo Morin.
Below you’ll find a guest post written by the author and a giveaway (US only) below as well as more information about the book and author. I just want to say that this is one of my favorite guest posts ever. The renaissance is one of my favorite eras in history so I obviously really loved this guest post. And I hope you all will enjoy reading it as well.
I haven’t read The Competition yet or the first one. I have bought the first book, though, so I’m hoping to read that one as soon as I can.
The Competition by Donna Russo Morin
Donna Russo Morin returns with a follow-up to Portrait of a Conspiracy, called “a page-turner unlike any historical novel, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition,” by C.W. Gortner.
In a studiolo behind a church, six women gather to perform an act that is, at once, restorative, powerful, and illegal. They paint. Under the tutelage of Leonardo da Vinci, these six show talent and drive equal to that of any man, but in Renaissance Florence they must hide their skills, or risk the scorn of the city.
A commission to paint a fresco in Santo Spirito is announced and Florence’s countless artists each seek the fame and glory this lucrative job will provide. Viviana, a noblewoman freed from a terrible marriage and now free to pursue her artistic passions in secret, sees a potential life-altering opportunity for herself and her fellow female artists. The women first speak to Lorenzo de’ Medici himself, and finally, they submit a bid for the right to paint it. And they win.
But the church will not stand for women painting, especially not in a house of worship. The city is not ready to consider women in positions of power, and in Florence, artists wield tremendous power. Even the women themselves are hesitant; the attention they will bring upon themselves will disrupt their families, and could put them in physical danger.
All the while, Viviana grows closer to Sansone, her soldier lover, who is bringing her joy that she never knew with her deceased husband. And fellow-artist Isabetta has her own romantic life to distract her, sparked by Lorenzo himself. Power and passion collide in this sumptuous historical novel of shattering limitations, one brushstroke at a time.
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FLORENCE: THE BIRTH PLACE OF THE RENAISSANCE; THE LAND OF MY ANCESTRY
All around them, a new evolution in art was taking place, one that would come to be known as the period of the greatest artistic rebirth, the cultural bridge from the Dark Ages to the Modern era. You could smell innovation and enlightenment in the air. Da Vinci’s Disciples didn’t care that as women they were prohibited from taking part. They would take part; they were determined to make their mark, no matter the consequences. So it is to Florence we go.
First I must tell of my own connection, one I didn’t know existed until after I wrote my fourth book, THE KING’S AGENT. Yes, in that glorious small speck of time between completing one book and starting another, I sent out a query to an organization that researches surnames. It took them a while to complete the appropriate investigation, during which time I developed the basic idea for my next work in progress, a trilogy also set in Florence on the birth of the female Renaissance artist. It would seem as if my fascination for the ancient city was firmly entrenched in my psyche. The information, when it came from the research institute, wonderfully illustrated with my family crest on parchment looking paper, declared that the origin of my family was, most probably… Florence. My ancestors have been calling, and I am answering that call as best I can.
Julius Caesar named the city ‘Florentina’ (meaning ‘flourishing’) when founded in 59 BC as a military retirement haven. How portentous the name would come to be. Yet there is evidence of occupation dating back to prehistoric times. Caesar developed the city, true, with the assistance of the great Roman general and statesman Lucius Cornelius Sulla, from a military state of mind, one that is still in evidence even today. Situated on a major artery leading to Rome, the Via Cassia (still known by that name in the heart of Rome, as the A1 for hundreds of miles leading throughout the country) it was rich with fertile farmland. The combination proved successful and it soon grew from a small Roman settlement to a lively commercial epicenter.
Enclosed in a wall approximately 1800 meters long, the city is rectangular in shape, and developed, as did most cities initially Roman, with straight roads and right angles. The main roads led to four towered gates and the Arno—a major river flowing in from the west coast—at first lay outside its gates. Located at the apex of main roads and a large river, found Florence growing rapidly, commercial activity and trade thrived, as did the city.
Christianity made its way to Florence in the second century and by the next, churches began to spring up like the shoots of spring flowers. Today there are close to forty churches and it is these religious houses that are partially responsible for the birth of the Renaissance.
Like so many other locations in Italy, Florence was prey to the pillaging of the Barbarian invasions of the Dark Ages. And though the city built more interior city walls, they too fell to the Lombards, the dark period of the city’s history.
But from out of the darkness, came the light.
By the 8th century, a feudal system was established in Florence, in truth throughout Tuscany, and the city became a county of the Holy Roman Empire, changes that were both a blessing and curse. More city walls were constructed, more gates for protection and grandiosity, and over the next few centuries Florence continued to prosper and its population to grow exponential; a flurry of activity leading to one of human evolution’s greatest eras, the Renaissance.
Any great accomplishment or movement or change in the direction of human kind, does not come about because of one circumstance or the efforts of one human, but from a conglomeration of magnificent events…the perfect storm. Such was the Renaissance and its birth in a city named Florence.
Its inception can be found, in part, in the politics of the city. A strife-ridden communal system gave way to an oligarchy, a system that would rule the city on and off for hundreds of years. The greatest of all the oligarchies belong to the Medici family (who are not only minor players in The King’s Agent, but who will be taking more center stage in my current works-in-progress). Yes, these were men who had undeniable, dare I say obnoxious, certainty in their superiority, but they were also gifted with open curious minds whose craving for knowledge and truth and beauty brought new and enlightening concepts to within the city walls. Harking back to the teachings of the Greeks and the Romans, they revived the value of the human being and, within this eagerness for knowledge and enlightenment, Humanism was born. Man came to consider himself God’s greatest creation and combined with a craving for rational thought and an affirmation of the natural environment in which he existed. A distinctive characteristic of Humanism was the glory of art, of man’s ability to manipulate media into whatever form they chose.
The rise of Humanism, the profusion of churches—churches which needed pious artwork to compete with the glory of its architecture—combined with the unflattering urge of humans to outdo each other, brought together all the necessary ingredients for an artistic explosion: fertile temperament, a surplus of venues, and the need for the leading citizens to become the leading citizen, producing a plethora of patrons vying for the best artists of all sorts. It was a collision that had never happened before, one that some hope will happen once again (one that I personally believe took place in the 1960s).
But it was not only painters and sculptors that Florence and its rebirth produced, though there were those a plenty, to name a few: Giotto di Bondone, Masaccio, Domenic Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Titian, and, of course, Leonardo da Vinci. And those are just the upper echelon of painters. Architecture reigned supreme as well under the skillful hands of Brunelleschi (the architect of Santa Spirito cathedreal; the main setting of THE COMPETITION), Leone Alberti, Palladio, and Bramante. And their glory was all written about with equal talent by the writers of the age: Petrarch, Boccaccio, Luigi Pulci, and Poliziano. In fact, so many of Italy’s greatest writers and poets were connected to Florence, its dialect came to be known as the official Italian language, beginning with the appearance of Dante’s Il Divina Commedia, a powerful component of the multilayered tale that is The King’s Agent. The power of Florence was felt in almost every facet of Renaissance life. The currency of the city, the gold Florin, came to be the most valued, not only in Italian but to all the corners of Europe, from Hungary to Britain to Bruges, and everywhere in between, and helped to develop industry across the continent.
It has been such an honor not only to write about the artists and innovators of the Renaissance, but to write about the birthplace of family.
Praise for The Competition
“THE COMPETITION is a page-turning, provocative romp through a fascinating time and place―15th-century Florence. Donna Russo Morin has given us a novel for our time, a book featuring strong female characters fighting the odds to break the “glass ceiling,” and reminding us that this battle is not new: women have been waging it for centuries. ―Sherry Jones, author of The Sharp Hook of Love: A Novel of Heloise and Abelard
“…a page-turner unlike any historical novel, weaving passion, adventure, artistic rebirth, and consequences of ambition…a masterful writer at the peak of her craft.”―C. W. Gortner, author of The Confessions of Catherine de’Medici
“A 15th-century Florence of exquisite art, sensual passion and sudden, remorseless violence comes vividly to life in Donna Russo Morin’s new novel.”―Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown
“In Portrait of a Conspiracy, Russo Morin’s rich detailing transports the reader to the heart of Renaissance Italy from the first page.”―Heather Webb, author of Becoming Josephine
“Illicit plots, mysterious paintings, and a young Leonardo da Vinci all have their part to play in this delicious, heart-pounding tale.”―Kate Quinn, author of The Empress of Rome Saga
“In elegant prose, Morin paints a captivating tale of courageous women painters who battle against prejudices in Renaissance Florence. Featuring strong women characters, each with distinctive personalities, this is exactly the type of historical novel I enjoy. Exhilarating and compassionate, The Competition sings a beautiful tribute of women’s talents and underscores Morin’s masterful storytelling. Delightful!”―Weina Dai Randel, author of The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon
“An inspiring tale of determined women, empowered by undeniable talent, in the male-dominated art world of Renaissance Florence. In The Competition, Ms. Morin delivers a captivating story rich with historical detail and beautifully woven through with atmosphere.”―Diane Haeger, author of Courtesan
About the Author
Donna earned two degrees from the University of Rhode Island. In addition to writing, teaching writing, and reviewing for literary journals, Donna works as a model and actor; highlights of her work include two seasons on Showtime’s Brotherhood and an appearance in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Donna is the proud mother of two sons, one a future opera singer, the other a future chef.
Donna’s titles include The Courtier’s Secret, The Secret of the Glass, To Serve a King, The King’s Agent, Portrait of a Conspiracy, and The Competition.
Donna enjoys meeting with book groups in person and via Skype chat. Visit her website at www.donnarussomorin.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Blog Tour Schedule
Monday, June 26
Interview at The Book Junkie Reads
Tuesday, June 27
Review at A Bookaholic Swede
Wednesday, June 28
Spotlight at Passages to the Past
Thursday, June 29
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch
Spotlight at A Holland Reads
Friday, June 30
Review at The True Book Addict
Monday, July 3
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Wednesday, July 5
Guest Post at Books of All Kinds
Thursday, July 6
Spotlight at The Writing Desk
Saturday, July 8
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Monday, July 10
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book
Tuesday, July 11
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Friday, July 14
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, July 17
Review at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, July 18
Guest Post at Bookfever <— Me ♥
Thursday, July 20
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Monday, July 24
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Wednesday, July 26
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, July 27
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, July 28
Review at Just One More Chapter
During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a paperback copy of The Competition & a Key Pendant necklace! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 28th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.