A love for the ages its secret hidden beneath a carefully applied mask of paint. Who covered up the ruby ring on the young woman's finger in the Raphael painting? Why place such a seemingly deliberate deception in a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance? Diane Haeger's The Ruby Ring posits an explanation amid the intrigues swirling around the Vatican in the early 1500s. The maestro, Raphael, seeks the perfect model for a papal commission to paint the Madonna. He finally discovers the ideal woman in the baker's daughter, Margherita Luri. Margherita proves more than mere model as the two begin a love affair that scandalizes Roman society and makes a powerful enemy of Cardinal Bibbiena. Set against the vivid descriptive detail of Rome and the Trastavere, Haeger's tale of how the ring came to be obscured in the Raphael masterpiece resonates with the grandeur and intimacy of epic love stories. The included reader's guide gives fodder for discussion, but this romance is first to be savored as the wonderful historical tale that it is.

Sandy Huseby writes from Fargo, North Dakota.

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