It is here! My newly published novel set in Arezzo, Italy called
“Waking Isabella” is now available on Amazon in print and e-book.
“When Isabella woke that morning with intentions of washing her long dark hair, she hadn’t imagined she would be dead before it was dry.”
…and so begins the story of my next adventure in Italy. Join my protagonist Nora as she journeys from San Francisco to Tuscany, following the ghost of Isabella de’ Medici, and discovers more about the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband in the hunting lodge at Cerreto Guidi.
The story is set in Arezzo, a small Tuscan town, south of Florence. Against the backdrop of the city’s ancient jousting festival and antique market, Nora is caught up in the mystery of what happened to a portrait of Isabella and her mother Eleonora, that was lost during the war years when Hitler ransacked and confiscated artwork from all over Europe. Nora becomes obsessed not only with the fifteenth-century Medici princess but also with the stories of Margherita and her father Bernardo Lancini who were proprietors of an antique store in Arezzo during the 40s, as well as with that of Federico Donati, the Italian artist who escaped from Paris with smuggled paintings from the Louvre.
Follow Nora to Arezzo, Italy, and fall in love with
the city and the joust as she awakens a princess
and solves the mystery of a hidden masterpiece.
Waking Isabella is a story about uncovering hidden beauty that, over time, has been lost, erased, or suppressed. It also weaves together several love stories as well as a few mysteries. Nora, an assistant researcher, is a catalyst for resolving the puzzle of a painting that has been missing for decades. Set in Arezzo, a small Tuscan town, the plot unfolds against the backdrop of the city’s antique trade and the fanfare and pageantry of its medieval jousting festival. While filming a documentary about Isabella de’ Medici—the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband—Nora begins to connect with the lives of two remarkable women from the past. Unraveling the stories of Isabella, the daughter of a fifteenth-century Tuscan duke, and Margherita, a young girl trying to survive the war in Nazi-occupied Italy, Nora begins to question the choices that have shaped her own life up to this point. As she does, hidden beauty is awakened deep inside of her, and she discovers the keys to her creativity and happiness. It is a story of love and deceit, forgeries and masterpieces—all held together by the allure and intrigue of a beautiful Tuscan ghost.
“Waking Isabella” follows Melissa’s
debut novel “Dreaming Sophia.”
“Dreaming Sophia” is the story of Sophia, an artist who makes her way to Florence. Being an imaginative thinker through her daydreams, she meets important historical figures—the titans of Italian language, art, and culture: Sophia Loren, Dante, Eleonora de’ Medici, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Michelangelo, and Brunelleschi to name a few. It is a story of turning dreams into reality as Sophia learns to adapt to the language and the Italian culture.
After completing “Dreaming Sophia,” I discovered how much I enjoy writing fiction and setting my characters in Italy. It is a pleasure for me to develop plot lines that allow me to draw the reader into a world in which I can illuminate them about local Italian festivals and traditions, as well as explore music, language, and art.
“Dreaming Sophia” is loosely based on my own experiences of falling in love with Italy that lead me to learn the language. The story of “Waking Isabella,” on the other hand, was inspired during one of my stays in Arezzo. It happened during a visit to Vasari’s house. Vasari was the first Art Historian, who collected the stories of contemporary artists, such as Michelangelo and Leonardo. He was born in Arezzo and worked for Cosimo I de’ Medici in Florence. One of his most important commissions was painting the inside of the cupola in the Duomo in Florence. In Arezzo, he designed the magnificent Loggia in the Piazza Grande. As I walked through Vasari’s home, I came upon a portrait of Isabella de’ Medici and was caught by expression in woman’s eyes. Similar to my character Nora, I quickly became curious to learn more about the Medici princess…and just like that—the idea for my second novel was born!
Continuing my research, I was further inspired by Iris Origo’s Diario, “War in Val d’Orcia in which she records life in Tuscany during the war years and the partisan activity in the area around Montepulciano. Of course, having lived and worked in Arezzo, the city itself was a huge inspiration, and I consider it a protagonist in my story. How could I resist the romance of the medieval jousting festival, the antique market, and the town’s churches, and artwork? In Arezzo, you will find Piero della Francesca’s frescos in the church of San Francesco and Cimabue’s cross in the church of San Domenico. Plus the city is bursting with local legends, and the allure of the Roberto Benigni’s—“La vita è Bella”—that was filmed in Arezzo.
I am completely enamored with Arezzo and through the pages of “Waking Isabella” I invite you to fall in love with the town too.
Writing a novel is a thrilling process—engaging, time-consuming, at times frustrating, and at other times invigorating—but oh, so rewarding. Aside from the long, late-night hours spent all by myself writing, re-writing, and revising…along the way to realize “Waking Isabella” I also met a lot of fascinating people. I couldn’t be more pleased with the team of first readers, editors, and proofreaders who provided valuable assistance.
Elizabeth Bosch was with me, once again, from the concept idea to the finished book. During the past year, she fearlessly and eagerly read the story over and over again, in all its various stages, and watched it evolve into the final version, which I now invite you to read. Thanks also to my editor Robert Schirmer, proofreader Kate Sullivan and ebook assistant Deborah Stocco. I send my love and undying gratitude also to Deborah Fallon who polished the apple one last time before the book went to press. Last but not least—ringrazio di cuore gli amici italiani ad Arezzo—thanks to my friends in Arezzo who answered my many questions about the joust and Aretino history: Paula Testi, Roberto Bondi, Monica Brizzi, Signori Carlo & Matteo Badii, Roberto Turchi, Giampiero Bracciali and Gianmaria Scortecci. Baci and abbracci a tutti!
Sheri Hoyte for Blog Critics: Author Melissa Muldoon presents spellbinding artistic expression in her delightful story, Dreaming Sophia. Not your typical Italian romantic adventure, Dreaming Sophia is a wonderful multifaceted story that pushes through several genres, with layers and layers of exquisite entertainment. The development of her characters is flawless and effortless, as is her ability to draw readers into her world.
Dianne Hales, author of “La Bella Lingua”: In Dreaming Sophia, Melissa Muldoon weaves many strands of Italian culture into a delightful blend of fantasy, romance, art, and history. With an artist’s keen eye and deft touch, she brings to life the titans of Italian culture in a touching tale of a young woman reeling from loss who discovers that “Italy is the answer.” The many Italophiles who share her belief will revel in the adventures of this kindred spirit.
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2018 Matta & Cultura Italiana Arezzo Language Program