Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from Amy Maroney’s new novel, Sea of Shadows.
Signor Salviati kept Anica waiting in the high-ceilinged parlor for what seemed like an hour before he emerged from an adjoining chamber.
He approached, his silk tunic rustling. “Signorina,” he said in a clipped voice, his expression cool. “I am eager to see your father’s work.”
Anica unwrapped the painting and presented it to him. It was exactly what he had asked for: a portrait of the Madonna and her child. The Virgin’s shimmering blue robe, made of lapis lazuli pigment, had cost a small fortune. The banker held the panel at arm’s length, pursing his lips. A long moment of silence passed. Anica’s left knee began to tremble.
Finally, he spoke. “Exquisite.” When he smiled, his graying teeth showed evidence of too many years’ enjoyment of red wine. “Signor Foscolo is indeed a talented man. He shows much discipline, working to this standard even while he mourns his son. Although it has been some time since your brother’s death, I suppose—”
“Six months today,” Anica said shortly.
Since Benedetto’s death, Anica had fought back her own sorrow and finished her father’s commissions one by one. She’d sourced the pigments, prepared the panels, and layered on the tempera paints herself. From the backgrounds to the most intricate details of a shining eye or a silken sleeve, she was responsible for it all. But Signor Salviati would never know that.
A young, clean-shaven man also clothed in silk entered the parlor and came to stand at Signor Salviati’s side.
“Ah! Troilo, look at the painting.” The banker tilted the panel in the newcomer’s direction. “Lovely, isn’t it?”
The young man gave the painting a cursory inspection. Then his deep-set brown eyes fixed on Anica. “Not as lovely as you, signorina.”
Signor Salviati lifted an eyebrow, his smile deepening. “Do you remember Troilo, my eldest son, signorina?”
She eyed the young man, who was a stocky, fleshy-faced version of his father. The Salviati family attended Santa Maria, where she often worshipped with Papa. But if she’d ever interacted with Troilo as a child, she had no recollection of it. “Yes, of course I do,” she lied smoothly.
“We’ve both grown up since I was last in Rhodes,” Troilo said. “You speak Italian as beautifully as if you’d been born and raised in Venice instead of Rhodes Town.”
“My father did not overlook my education,” she replied.
“He’s a true citizen of Venice, then?” The banker’s son narrowed his eyes. “Or a white Venetian?”
Anica stood taller. “He comes by his citizenship naturally—he did not buy it, I assure you.”
“You’re fortunate to possess some Latin blood, signorina,” he said with a thin smile. “Though some might mistake you for Greek.” He flapped a dismissive hand at her long cotton headpiece.
She felt the sting of shame, followed by a wave of anger. With effort, she kept her face impassive.
“Her mother is a Georgillas,” Signor Salviati put in. “One of the first families.”
When the Knights Hospitaller took ownership of Rhodes generations ago, a handful of Greeks had forged lucrative alliances with them. Mamá’s family was descended from one of those men.
“Indeed?” his son said in a slightly more respectful tone.
Anica repressed an impatient sigh, eager to receive her payment and flee. Her gaze fell to the coin purse on Signor Salviati’s belt. “My father expects me back straightaway.”
He gave a start, one hand going to his waist. “Oh, he did not tell you? We’ve made other arrangements for payment. I shall not be giving you any coin today.”
Anica studied the Florentine’s face with suspicion. Her father had said nothing of this, but in his current state Papa could not be counted on to communicate anything of importance. She thought of the ducats she’d spent on pigments and other supplies to create this painting, of the expenses her family had faced for Benedetto’s funeral. Words of protest rose up in her throat, but she gritted her teeth and pushed them back down again.
Speak with Papa first, she counseled herself. Keep this encounter pleasant, for his sake.
So rather than protest, she gave a quick curtsy. “Thank you, signor.”
The younger Salviati put up a hand. “Wait.” He plucked the wooden panel from his father’s grasp. “I’ve spent the last five years in Florence, signorina. I saw dozens of portraits hanging in the finest homes there. Portraits of the men who’ve made their fortunes in wool and wine, done in a new style, with paints of oil.”
“Oil?” repeated Signor Salviati.
His son nodded. “It’s a style that started in the north. Flanders, I believe.” He stepped closer to Anica. “Surely, you’ve heard of this?”
Anica resisted the urge to edge away. There was a wide space between his two front teeth. His pink tongue protruded slightly through the gap, and his breath smelled of fish and garlic.
“No,” she said. “Artists use egg to thin the pigments. That is how it’s always been done.”
He shook his head. There was a hint of triumph in his expression. “Things are changing,” he told her. “Oils are the new fashion. Your father had better learn this new style, or he shall soon find himself out of work.”
Signor Salviati turned a sour expression on the panel that he had complimented a few moments before.
“If that is the case, then we shall have portraits made in oil, too. One of me, one of you, and one of your mother.” The two men exchanged a satisfied look. Then the banker turned back to Anica. “Tell your father of my wish, Signorina Foscolo. He’ll welcome the commission, I have no doubt.”
Something in his tone sent a stab of worry into Anica’s chest. “I will tell him, signor.”
When a manservant let her out the front doors, she found the slave Maria standing still as a statue where she’d left her, face covered with a sheen of sweat.
They pressed against the wall as a donkey cart piled with fruit rolled by. Anica looked back at the banker’s home, her eyes aching from the glare of the sun against the white marble façade.
She should have been glad for another commission from the man. But instead, she felt certain no good would come of it.
Check out Amy’s last visit to the blog here.
Here’s the blurb:
1459. A gifted woman artist. A ruthless Scottish privateer. And an audacious plan that throws them together—with dangerous consequences.
No one on the Greek island of Rhodes suspects Anica is responsible for her Venetian father’s exquisite portraits, least of all her wealthy fiancé. But her father’s vision is failing, and with every passing day it’s more difficult to conceal the truth.
When their secret is discovered by a powerful knight of the Order of St. John, Anica must act quickly to salvage her father’s honor and her own future. Desperate, she enlists the help of a fierce Scottish privateer named Drummond. Together, they craft a daring plan to restore her father’s sight.
There’s only one problem—she never imagined falling in love with her accomplice.
Before their plan can unfold, a shocking scandal involving the knights puts Anica’s entire family at risk. Her only hope is to turn to Drummond once again, defying her parents, her betrothed, even the Grand Master of the Knights himself. But can she survive the consequences?
With this captivating tale of passion, courage, and loyalty, Amy Maroney brings a lost, dazzling world to vivid life.
Sea of Shadows is Book 2 in a series of stand-alone historical novels packed with adventure and romance.
This novel is available on #KindleUnlimited
Meet the author
Amy Maroney studied English Literature at Boston University and worked for many years as a writer and editor of nonfiction. She lives in Oregon, U.S.A. with her family. When she’s not diving down research rabbit holes, she enjoys hiking, dancing, traveling, and reading. Amy is the author of The Miramonde Series, an award-winning historical fiction trilogy about a Renaissance-era female artist and the modern-day scholar on her trail. Her new historical suspense/romance series, Sea and Stone Chronicles, is set in medieval Rhodes and Cyprus.
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