3 out of 4 stars
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So many things are lost to history, but is a missing Leonardo da Vinci painting one of those things? Art historian Angela Renatus has started having visions of a beautiful woman being painted by the famous fifteenth-century artist; there is no known painting by da Vinci of this woman. The visions and dreams of the past confuse Angela, and her uncertainty about the nature of these dreams is only enhanced when art detective Alex Caine reaches out to her for assistance in locating a painting purported to have been done by da Vinci. Alex and Angela allow Angela’s visions to guide them, hoping they will lead to the truth about the painting and its possible location. The painting was allegedly smuggled from a museum in Florence by a World War II soldier during the German occupation of Italy, but if it exists, what happened to it? If the painting does exist is it even attributable to Leonardo da Vinci? The search for what could turn out to be a nearly priceless painting doesn’t come without threats from those who seek the painting to gain fame and fortune. Will Angela and Alex survive long enough to discover the truth about the painting? The Girl Who Knew da Vinci by Belle Ami is a fast-paced mystery that will lead the reader on a wonderful journey to discover the answers to all of these questions.
The Girl Who Knew da Vinci is a fascinating mixture of romance, mystery, suspense, history, and fantasy. Although Alex and Angela are the focal points of the story, Angela’s visions give the reader glimpses of two sets of lovers. The first, Fioretta and Giuliano, are a fifteenth-century couple who are the subjects of the mysterious da Vinci piece. The second, Sophia and Gerhard, are WWII lovers who Angela sees smuggling the painting from the Uffizi Gallery. Angela struggles to understand if the visions are truths of the past or figments of her imagination. Whether or not the visions of the four lovers are true historical events, their stories are interesting. The way in which the couples deeply loved each other makes the reader want to know more about them. One of the shortcomings of this novel is the lack of detail and depth to the stories of Fioretta and Giuliano and Sophia and Gerhard. The glimpses into their lives left me wanting to know more about them, as well as the renowned da Vinci.
Another point of discontent I have with the romance aspect of this story is the relationship between Alex and Angela. Ami repeatedly reminds the reader that the two have only known each other for one week, yet they do not hesitate to quickly progress their romance. The intimate scenes are awkwardly written. The descriptions of their actions are in keeping with many romance novels I have read, but the dialogue between them during these scenes is my least favorite aspect of this book. I cringed as I read the things they say to each other. It is as if they have to constantly reassure one another that they find pleasure in their lovemaking.
My complaints about the romance in the story are trumped by my enjoyment of the mystery and suspense. The search for the truth surrounding the supposedly missing da Vinci painting is wonderfully executed. I enjoyed the journey through Angela’s visions as she pieced together information from the past to come to a conclusion about the painting. The discoveries that result from the visions move the story along at an excellent pace.
The historical accuracy that Ami commits to is also wonderful. Her inclusion of actual historical figures and events drove me to research certain people and events. I found everything I researched to be accurate including the relationship between Fioretta and Giuliano, the fates of the fifteenth-century lovers, and the bombing of Florence's bridges during WWII. The accuracy with which Ami details these events greatly impressed me. I am not a huge history fanatic so when an author can compel me to research historical events, that is quite a feat.
Overall, this is an enjoyable story. I was engaged throughout with the exception of Alex and Angela’s bedroom scenes. Ami has a flair for describing scenery, art, and history. The Italian backdrop of the search was beautifully detailed. The Girl Who Knew da Vinci is worthy of 3 out of 4 stars. I am withholding the fourth star for the awkward dialogue between Angela and Alex, the lack of development of the stories of the two other couples, and the typing errors that need to be corrected including quite a few missing quotation marks. I look forward to reading more by Belle Ami.
The Girl Who Knew Da Vinci
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