The Fortune Keeper | Intriguing Italian Renaissance Historical Fiction by Deborah Swift

The Fortune Keeper
Deborah Swift
Count your nights by stars, not shadows ~ Italian Proverb
Winter in Renaissance Venice
Mia Caiozzi is determined to discover her destiny by studying the science of astronomy. But her stepmother Giulia forbids her to engage in this occupation, fearing it will lead her into danger. The ideas of Galileo are banned by the Inquisition, so Mia must study in secret.
Giulia’s real name is Giulia Tofana, renowned for her poison Aqua Tofana, and she is in hiding from the Duke de Verdi’s family who are intent on revenge for the death of their brother. Giulia insists Mia should live quietly out of public view. If not, it could threaten them all. But Mia doesn’t understand this, and rebels against Giulia, determined to go her own way.
When the two secret lives collide, it has far-reaching and fatal consequences that will change Mia’s life forever.
Set amongst opulent palazzos and shimmering canals, The Fortune Keeper is the third novel of adventure and romance based on the life and legend of Giulia Tofana, the famous poisoner.
‘Her characters are so real they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf’ – Historical Novel Society
NB This is the third in a series but can stand alone as it features a new protagonist. Other two books are available if reviewers want them.
Trigger warnings:
Murder and violence in keeping with the era.
This book is available to read on Kindle Unlimited
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Enjoy an Excerpt from Chapter 1
November 1643

Mia unhooked the clasp and swung her cloak off, hanging it on the back of a chair. ‘Here, signor. The new Torah, properly bound at last,’ she placed the book before him like an offering.
‘Ah!’ Signor Bravaggio picked up the top volume and lifted it towards his nose. ‘There’s nothing I like more than the smell of new books. Especially Jewish books!’ He inhaled deeply then turned the book in his hand, weighed it, sniffed it again, then smoothed the surface of the embossing with his thumb. ‘Beautiful. Your father has done another exceptional job with the binding. I hate to see these go, but my client is getting impatient, and won’t wait.’
Bravaggio examined the other volumes and then unlocked the iron bound coffer that lived in the kneehole under the desk. She paced around the room examining it for anything new, but turned at the rattle of coins.
He dropped a jute bag on the table before her. ‘Same as we agreed,’ he said. ‘Be careful carrying that amount around the streets.’ He withdrew a sheaf of unbound paper from the coffer and flapped it at her. ‘The Trickster of Seville by a monk, Tirso de Molina,’ he said. ‘A play in Spanish, but the translation is with it. Tell Herr Weber it’s to be set in print and then bound in red calfskin like the others. And here; the new Haggadà, the rite written in everyday Italian.’ He handed her a slim wooden-bound volume. ‘Space for pictures too, if Herr Weber can find someone brave or foolish enough to carve them.’
‘Not a chance. But Fabio will love binding this Haggadà as much as the play. He reads them all, you know, before he makes the covers. He’s never been in a synagogue but he’s the best-educated Jew in the ghetto.’
Bravaggio laughed. ‘He knows a good idea when he sees one, your father.’
‘I worry he doesn’t go to Mass though; it might raise questions with the Inquisition.’
‘Don’t even speak of the name. Fabio’s always been his own man; he’ll be all right. It’s Weber’s good fortune he took him on, or Weber’d have no print business at all. But here, something else that will interest you.’ He smiled and passed over a hand-copied manuscript. She read the frontispiece and saw it was by Girolamo Cardano — an astrological commentary.
She looked up, to see Bravaggio’s amused eyes.
‘Is this what I think it is?’
He laughed; a dry, parched sound. ‘The one that dares to include a horoscope of Jesus the Galileean? Yes. Cardano lost his professorship over it.’
‘You’d trust me with this?’
‘As long as you’re careful. It’s not for binding, just for reading. And I want it back when I return. ’ He tapped his nose. ‘Like the others, it’s on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. If anyone catches you with it, the Inquisitors will want to know. But knowing your interest in the heavens, I know you’ll be careful.’
‘I wish you’d reconsider and take me as a student, teach me what you know, signor.’
‘I’ve told you, I’m too old for teaching now. And you know it’s not possible. Fabio says that your mother doesn’t hold with anything that even whiffs of a dispute with the church.’
Mia put everything into her calico shoulder bag, along with the money. ‘Yes, these days Giulia forbids nearly everything.’ She sighed. ‘It makes things hard. But there’s nowhere else I can go. Only the convent. She frowns every time I get out my charts. When shall I tell Fabio these others must be finished?’
‘For when I return. I’ll be gone a month, but you understand it’s not for my benefit, but for the benefit of my Armenian client, and those awaiting the new thoughts from Madrid. But to some, it’s heresy. So be careful.’
‘So what’s new? Everything you give me is heresy. You’d have no business without it.’
Bravaggio chuckled, and wagged his finger at her. ‘Why do you think I wear gloves? To keep the stink of it off my hands.’
She grinned at him. They understood each other. He knew she loved coming here, to his library, full of shelved books from floor to ceiling, and the drawers full of old parchments from antiquity and the fresh printings of new ideas, like new shoots coming up from the earth. Only to him could she explain her restless mind, and her obsession with the stars and the night sky.

Deborah Swift is a USA TODAY bestselling author who is passionate about the past. Deborah used to be a costume designer for the BBC, before becoming a writer. Now she lives in an old English school house in a village full of 17th Century houses, near the glorious Lake District. She divides her time between writing and teaching. After taking a Masters Degree in Creative Writing, she enjoys mentoring aspiring novelists and has an award-winning historical fiction blog at her website
Deborah loves to write about how extraordinary events in history have transformed the lives of ordinary people, and how the events of the past can live on in her books and still resonate today.
Recent books include The Poison Keeper, about the Renaissance poisoner Giulia Tofana, which was a winner of the Wishing Shelf Readers Award, and a Coffee Pot Book Club Gold Medal, and The Cipher Room set in WW2 and due for publication by Harper Collins next Spring.
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