Rome’s Last Noble Palace
Two women. Two different centuries. One attic room
American Isabelle Field has been shipped off to Rome to live with her aunt, Princess Elizabeth Brancaccio. Isabelle’s aunt and mother share a common goal – replicating Elizabeth’s success by marrying Isabelle off to a European nobleman.
But Rome in 1896 is on the cusp of a new century and Isabelle longs for more than a titled husband. She secretly designs costumes for Rome’s burgeoning theatre environment and dreams of opening a fashion atelier. Can she gather the courage to forge a life for herself, even if it means going against expectations?
Over a century later, doctoral candidate Sophie Nouri can’t believe her good fortune when she is selected to intern in Rome’s Near Eastern Art Museum. Even better, the position includes an attic apartment in the spectacular museum property, the Palazzo Brancaccio.
Overseeing a major exhibition is stressful, but tension alone can’t explain the disturbing nighttime presence in the deserted hallways of the grand palace – especially one no one else can sense. Almost as if a spectral being is trying to communicate with Sophie directly. Or warn her.
SUNLIGHT STREAMED THROUGH the high windows, coaxing Sophie from her dreams. She cracked one eye open, groaning at the early hour on the travel alarm clock. How had she forgotten to close the shutters last night? Blame it on the jet lag of someone no longer used to international travel.
She turned her head to observe Matt’s sleeping form. His chest rose and fell in a calm, steady rhythm. A little sunlight seeping through the windows would never wake him this early. He was made of stronger stuff.
She turned back to the window, struck again by golden Roman light she’d forgotten after so many years away. Not at all like the diffused light back home. Sparrows swooped in graceful arcs across the cloudless, cerulean sky. As the sleepiness seeped from her eyes and her gaze sharpened, the bright, white blocks began to take shape. Her heart beat faster. The familiar but long-dormant sense of fear coursed through her body. She hadn’t been expecting to feel it so deeply after all these years away.
Closing her eyes, she took a calming breath and formed images of waking in her bedroom at home. The branch of the oak tree scraping the bedroom window, the twittering of the birds, the bold squirrel that peeked in her window most mornings, the creaks and groans of the old, converted farmhouse. Gradually, her heartbeat slowed, the fear seeped away. She inhaled deeply, counted to ten and exhaled.
She could do this.
She fixed a determined gaze on the grand palazzo, glittering white in the strong Mediterranean sunlight. Some of its brown shutters were open, others closed like sleepy eyes reluctant to yield to the morning light. She remembered all those useless afternoon battles against the Roman sunlight filtering heat and blinding rays into those great rooms.
At the palazzo’s upper edge, lithe young angels kneeled in rows, their flowing curls cascading down to their shoulders. Their pointed wings punctuated the cornice above, curving vines sprouted from their bodies in a riot of intricate swirls. The young angels were separated from one another by lush greenery, unrolling in a seemingly endless, elegant row. She’d always known the carving was there, but she’d never observed the details from this angle. Everything had been different from within. Despite the warmth of the early morning sun, she shivered.
Ignoring a mounting sense of dread, Sophie pushed herself up gently, careful not to rouse Matt. Sliding bare feet into beckoning slippers, she padded softly to the door, her back decisively turned to the noble home.
Kimberly grew up in the suburbs of Boston and in Saratoga Springs, New York, although she now calls the Harlem neighborhood of New York City home when she’s back in the US. She studied political science and history at Cornell University and earned her MBA, with a concentration in strategy and marketing, from Bocconi University in Milan.
Afflicted with a severe case of Wanderlust, she worked in journalism and government in the US, Czech Republic and Austria, before settling down in Rome, where she works in international development, and writes fiction any chance she gets.
She is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) and The Historical Novel Society and has published several short stories and three novels: Three Coins, Dark Blue Waves and In The Shadow of The Apennines.
After years spent living in Italy with her Italian husband and sons, she’s fluent in speaking with her hands, and she loves setting her stories in her beautiful, adoptive country.
a Rafflecopter giveaway