When painter's apprentice Dino discovers the body of Bellanca, lady's maid to Contessa Caterina, he thinks one thing: Why me? This is the second suspicious death he had become involved in at the Duke of Milan's castle in the past few months! The court surgeon rules Bellanca's death a suicide, but Dino and his master Leonardo da Vinci believe otherwise and set out to prove it.
Dino and Da Vinci devise an ingenious plan to disguise Dino as a female—Delfina—and make her Caterina's new servant in order to get information about Bellanca's demise. This is ironic because Dino is actually a female and has been deceiving her master and fellow apprentices the entire time. "Saints' blood, it was not fair!" she exclaimed, "My sex should not have kept me from pursuing the painter's life!" Can Delfina solve the mystery of Bellanca's death before any more of the castle's inhabitants—or she herself—turn up dead? Can she maintain her own secret, or will her true identity be found out and the trust of her beloved master lost?
Diane A. S. Stuckart's novel Portrait of a Lady is an enjoyable, light mystery with lively characters and just enough history to keep it interesting. While a bit predictable, the plot was intriguing. What a mess Delfina got herself into, falling in love with Gregorio, Captain of the Guard, while dressed as a girl! He is aware of her true gender, and if he had revealed this to da Vinci she would have been ruined. Delfina is torn between risking everything for her love interest and remaining loyal to Da Vinci.
If you are in the mood for a medieval castle, aristocratic court, a murder mystery, and an independent female heroine, this is the book for you.
Diane A. S. Stuckart has written historical romances under the pen names Alexa Smart and Anna Gerard. She lives in Texas and holds a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. Portrait of a Lady is the second book in her new series. The first was titled The Queen's Gambit. Visit her website.
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