From critically acclaimed historical novelist Diane Haeger comes The Ruby Ring, an unforgettable story of love, loss, and immortal genius....
Rome, 1520: The Eternal City is in mourning. Raphael Sanzio, beloved painter and national hero, has died suddenly at the height of his fame. His body lies in state at the splendid marble Pantheon. At the nearby convent of Sant'Apollonia, a young woman comes to the Mother Superior, seeking refuge. She is Margherita Luti, a baker's daughter from a humble neighborhood on the Tiber, now an outcast from Roman society, persecuted by powerful enemies within the Vatican. Margherita was Raphael's beloved and appeared as the Madonna in many of his paintings. Theirs was a love for the ages. But now that Raphael is gone, the convent is her only hope of finding an honest and peaceful life.
The Mother Superior agrees to admit Margherita to their order. But first, she must give up the ruby ring she wears on her left hand, the ring she had worn in Raphael's scandalous nude "engagement portrait". The ring has a storied past, and it must be returned to the Church or Margherita will be cast out into the streets. Behind the quiet walls of the convent, Margherita makes her decision...and remembers her life with Raphael - and the love and torment - embodied in that one precious jewel.
In The Ruby Ring, Diane Haeger brings to life a love affair so passionate that it remains undimmed by time. Set in the sumptuous world of the Italian Renaissance, it's the story of the clergymen, artists, rakes, and noblemen who made Raphael and Margherita's world the most dynamic and decadent era in European history.
I was quite bored with this novel... found my thoughts drifting away. Found the character development a little underwhelming and at times they were very whiney for a lack of a better term. Either they weren't evil enough or brave enough. Didn't really pick up until the tail end of the book. For a talented author, not her best work.
I did like this book overall; it was an interesting depiction of the time period and the perks and hazards of being a great painter with commissions that need to be done especially when these commissions are from the Pope himself. As with other artists I’ve read about, Raphael became a bit obsessed with Margherita at the detriment to his work. I did feel bad for them in the end because of all the interference in their lives also the way Margherita was treated by these men in Raphael’s life especially while Raphael was on his death bed, they all knew how much Raphael loved this woman but they were so evil to her. The more I read on this time period the less respect I have for these supposed clerics, they were the biggest schemers and frauds of them all and were able to get away with it because they were clerics.
I wish there had been more of the rivalry between Raphael, da Vinci & Michelangelo, I found this an interesting side story and wish there had been more of it. I am not a big fan of romance novels and there were times when the romance of these two had me rolling my eyes and hoping to get on with more plot and less romance. Again, as I read about this time period the church sure had their hand in everything from who Raphael could marry and who he couldn’t. But when you are betrothed to a Cardinal’s niece who has the ear of the De Medici Pope I guess they have a bit of a vested interest in your life, especially when you are spending more time with your model/mistress than you are on finishing the project for the Pope.
This did make me do some research and with the portrayal of Cardinal Bibbiena I was very surprised to see he was a comedy writer? What? He sure didn’t seem to have a sense of humor in this book he was pretty despicable. I also found the painting The Betrothal of Raphael and the Niece of Cardinal Bibbiena by, painter Jacques-Louis David which showed that some of the facts were there but when reading the description it said that the likeness of Maria the cardinal's niece was inspired by an image of a woman once identified as Raphael's mistress, called "La Fornarina"., so it made me wonder if that was really Margherita. As I have said in other reviews of historical fiction if a book makes me want to do research about the people or places than it did a good job of engaging me.
Elizabeth Wiley’s narration was good if a bit over the top at times, some characters had a more pronounced accent than others but I believe she was trying to convey the characters personality. One voice that just rubbed me the wrong way because of the accent and key was the nuns voice it was too high and shrill, Maria’s voice was annoying too. But either I got used to the narration or Elizabeth got into a rhythm and became more comfortable with the accents as I felt they got better the longer I listened. By the end of the book I was enjoying her narration and thought she did well at transitioning between the Italian accents and the narrative with her regular voice. I would seek out other books narrated by Elizabeth Wiley.
3 ½ Stars