This seductive page-turner from Di Robliant, a journalist based in Rome, is a glittering nonfiction account of real-life passion set in the 1700s. The author is distantly related to the book's hero, Andrea Memmo, a Venetian statesman who belonged to one of the Republic's most prestigious families. Andrea is desperately in love with Giustiniana Wynne, a young woman of exceptional beauty and intelligence whose questionable lineage she was the illegitimate child of an Italian mother and a British baronet father made it impossible for her to become his wife. Drawing on a collection of recently discovered letters written by the two lovers, Di Robilant offers a lavish reconstruction of their romance and the controversy that resulted. To woo openly was to risk ruin, and so the couple's affair was characterized by intrigue from the start. The smitten Andrea employed agents to obtain information as to Giustiniana's whereabouts and to deliver messages to her, and the pair's correspondence engaging, lively and poetic forms the backbone of the book. Di Robilant draws on a variety of scholarly sources to flesh out their story, producing an atmospheric, opulent narrative the ultimate valentine to two lovers whose forbidden desire nearly destroys them.
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