In 18th century Milan, a duchessa is thrusted from her horse and into the estate of another esteemed member of the king’s court. Lilliana is unable to remember her accident or her identity. Duca Emmanuele notices that Duchessa Rosetta is complacent about their daughter’s absence from the House of Montanari. During the duchessa’s convalescence, she and the duca grow in affection towards one another. The maidservant, Noemi of the House of Montanari silently volunteers to help locate and retrieve the missing duchessa. Noemi enlists the help of her fellow maidservant, Gabriella. Noemi leaves the House of Montanari and encounters a proud vendor of pomegranates. He speaks of a tale of a fallen maiden taken into the care of a duca. He guides her to the House of Marchesi. The duchessa finally recalls her father’s identity. The duchessa wishes to learn more of the duca. He introduces her to various quarters of the Marchesi mansion. The king and queen gather evidence and secure it in the royal vault. Alessandro proposes to her. Lilliana accepts. The Crown decides to proceed with the planned royal ball. All of the esteemed of the Milanese king’s court are to attend.. The night of the royal grand affair arrives. Servants of the Houses of Montanari and Marchesi enter with the assistance of a royal servant. In separate royal chambers, the king and queen officiate Duca Alessandro and Duchessa Lilliana’s nuptials. Duca Emmanuele is right to be concerned for his daughter, for someone has conspired a dastardly plan against the duchessa, but who? The king and queen have the answer and reveals it before the entire king’s court.
Targeted Age Group:: 14+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I have always been fascinated with Italy, though I have never traveled there. This would be my second historical romance novel set in the 18th century in one of its city states. What inspired me to write this novel is the beautiful architecture, frescoes and preservation of the old Italia waterways. I did want two try two things differently with this historical romance novel, a bit more humour and using the servants as the background heroes.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Usually I look up popular male and female names during that time period and the relevant country. From their I will sometimes get an image of what they would appear as. I already knew that Lilliana would have very dark hair, an innocent countenance, etc. As far as the duca, I think the circumstance of her falling into his path dictated how his character would unfold. Naturally protective, authoritative as an aristocrat and yet able to display a softer side in the presence of this beauty that he would easily have affection for.
“What a faulty arrangement!” Duchessa Rosetta said. “Who would ever believe they were harvested from our gardens!” She lifted the heavy head d of one floral as if it were to die in her aging hands. Duca Emmanuele entered the parlour, unable to concentrate on any partial hanging within the room. He first approached a window, but his preoccupied mind distracted him from even seeing clearly. He was a tall man of great stature, of an olive complexion as well. The courtier never denied his heritage. The Sea of Gibraltar had not created much of a barrier between North and East Africa and the lower portions of Europe. Mercantilism was the occupation for many in his extended ancestry; but his direct lineage was of high nobility, safeguarding him from many attacks of the other aristocrats, but not completely. He scanned the circular ceiling of the parlours with his hazel gray eyes until they landed on the form of his oblivious wife. She was of nobility in her own familial right, a justifiable claim she was always ready to present to any of the other ennobled as they all competed to become part of the higher strata—if this was even possible.
“Have you even seen her, Rosetta? Has the duchessa seen where our daughter is as of late?” Duca Emmanuele said. “This is not the manner in which the House of Montanari is to be maintained.” He pressed his burly hand against his waist. Rosetta heard the duca, but she was hoping that her silence would force him to be calm. Rosetta grossly overestimated the effect of her nonchalant response. “You concern yourself more with uprooted flowers rather than where Lilliana currently stands.” He waited for the duchessa to display some semblance of concern for Lilliana. She had just become of age. Her tendency to wander about within the courtyard, and on occasion beyond the secure gates of the Montanari manor warned the duca of what he could inevitably expect next. The duchessa had no intention to worry her father. She knew that her mother was too preoccupied with impressing others; and that translated into furthering her inherited status within the king's court.
Duchessa Lilliana was of course, outside the Montanari mansion. She spent a couple of hours with the horses wandering about the stables until she unfastened one and led it out. She believed them to be friendly, rather than beast. “You are quite the beautiful one,” she said as she walked with the lone horse. Duca Emmanuele ensured that they were of the finest breed.
“Only a minute sign of the great House of Montanari,” Emmanuele would say. The duchessa slowly slid the palm of her delicate hand against its left side. She began with its mane until she reached the uppermost part of his hind leg. The pure bred wagged its tail with excitement as it turned its head, waiting for its master to return.
“Your illustrious coat, your eyes always bright, but one day soon I shall have to depart from you…unless…” The duchessa returned to the fore of her favourite horse. She braced its long head within her hands. “…with trusting eyes, you probably have no care of my speech.” The horse stared at her, only relishing her smoothing her right hand along the length of its head. Suddenly, she heard a blast. Duchessa Lilliana lowered herself quickly to hide form the imminent danger. She used the horse as her barricade. Lilliana leaned backwards. They were far beyond the stables. Orchards and olive trees littered this side of the manor's estate. When she finally looked up, the hem of her mantua dusted the ground, leaving traces of soil on her gown. The duchessa saw fiery orange in the sky, a blast from a sturdy weapon. 'War?' she thought. The duchessa then heard the hurried gallop of several horses beyond the House of Montanari.
“Give Chase! All of you. We shall catch him. He surely cannot outrun the gallantry of these fine men!” Duchessa Lilliana heard their leader quip. She finally stood; ready to witness the cause of her ungraceful concealment.
“Too far. I stand too far from the boundary of the estate,” she whispered.
“Blasts! Blasts within the confines of this fine countryside of Milan,” her father said. “…and I can assure you that these are no hunters.” Emmanuele tossed his arms upwards, as if they carried the repulsion of the entire city state within his very palms.
“Probably servants. They are likely to conduct themselves in such a fashion…and still they think it is festive leisure for all to enjoy.” Lilliana's mother spoke in great error. Hunting was a pastime for both nobility and commoner. 18th century Milan with its beautiful frescos and elaborate architecture still had many a man who hunted for sport or as a means to gather meat for family meals. She had never needed to observe the chase; for she was 'lady' of the manor and as her daughter became older, she clearly understood that Duchessa Rosetta enjoyed title rather than etiquette or grace in which all were duty-bound to perform. Nevertheless, Emmanuele narrowed his eyes. His wife finally turned away from the fine floral arrangement to face her husband.
“So does the whereabouts of our daughter-especially now—has it captured your attention?” he said. The duca reached for a plume from a side table, wooden, intricately carved and rarely used. Lilliana's father then pulled out a small card, ready to send telegram for his missing daughter. Duchessa Rosetta watched as he inked the nib and tapped it once against his tongue. As soon as he was to write, Lilliana's mother approached closer and responded; instantly interrupting him.
“I always have concern for Lilliana. She is of age. Whom she is to wed is of
utmost importance to this house.” Emmanuele crossed his arms in front of him after he placed his utensil on the desk. “Yes, she could be in danger, but most likely she is not. We are both acquainted with our duchessa.” Liliana's father still kept his arms folded in front of him. He finally stepped away from his wife in the parlour and towards the grand entry of the mansion. The senior butler of the House stood nearby, presenting himself more as a guard rather than a domestic.
“My lord, have you not heard blasts? None of us should depart from here until the manor is secured. The duca already had his hand on the iron latch. The servant slowly walked to the side with his clasped hands dangling in front of him.
“I must ensure that my daughter is secure as she is not inside the mansion. None of the other servants have seen her,” her father said. He pulled one of the double doors open.
The butler raised his right hand. Duca Emmanuele thought he would prevent his exit.
“Then I must serve the duca of this House and accompany him.”
“Slow and steady,” Lilliana said as she mounted her steed. The duchessa directed it to tarry alongside the inside of the courtyard, following the sounds of the group of men. She was only to stop at the gate, but her last kick signaled to the horse to leap from the estate. “No I did not mean–!” The horse continued to gallop. Its mane wisped in the air while its tail flailed in any direction. The duchessa held onto her chest with her right hand. Her long ebony hair flowed in wayward directions. She had never ridden in the main street on horseback. “Unseemly,” she whispered to herself. The horse ignored her as it followed the hoof sounds of those far ahead. “Slow, I commanded.” The stallion continued forward as if it were to reunite with a lost kin. The duchessa kicked it on both sides. “I do not wish to harm you, but—” It halted. The horse leaned itself backwards. It heard a 'click'. More weapons. It remembered the blasts but momentarily forgot about its delicate passenger. Up the duchessa went, flying in the air. She flipped haphazardly, trying to catch herself, but the initial thrust from her steed would not allow it. She braced herself for several injuries. Trees, orchards, and shrubs were all around. The trajectory steered Duchessa Lilliana towards a vast garden. 'Maybe I should tuck my head forward—no that will only cause for me to injure my neck,' she thought. Her body was still bent, almost in half but began to unfurl. If there were any spectators, they would not be able to note the angle. Her mantua was wide, covering half of her presence. It seemed as if she flipped for eras. One last time she saw the ground from up above and upside down. The ground was too close. The duchessa was to fall head first. Liliana's eyes widened. She flipped one last time. Quickly she shut her eyes again and relaxed her body. “Whatever is to—” Lilliana said. She fell. The duchessa opened her eyes. She was not dead. Lilliana was barely injured. She reached from her left arm with her right. “Not broken.” Her legs were still obscured by the massive gown and all the layers which supported it; but the lower half of her body was raised towards her torso. “I—I—”
“You have quite the tendency for unfortunate events.” Duchessa Lilliana heard a voice. It was that of a man. A gentleman she presumed. A handsome courtier stood over her. The duchessa was correct. “Do I dare give you advice mademoiselle, while you lay in this unfortunate state before me?” The duca crouched at her left side with his feet only two paces apart. He rested his forearms on his thighs with his hands clinging to one another. The duchessa swallowed.
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