Romance Marina Fiorato The Venetian Bargain

ISBN 13: 9781250042958

The Venetian Bargain

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9781250042958: The Venetian Bargain

Venice, 1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man, more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague―and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge.

But the ship also holds a secret stowaway―Feyra, a young and beautiful harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan's concubine. Only her wits and medical knowledge keep her alive as the plague ravages Venice.

In despair, the Doge commissions the architect Andrea Palladio to build the greatest church of his career―an offering to God so magnificent that Venice will be saved. But Palladio's life is in danger too, and it will require all the skills of Annibale Cason, the city's finest plague doctor, to keep him alive. What Annibale had not counted on was meeting Feyra, who is now under Palladio's protection―an impossible woman whose medical skills and determination are matched only by his own.

From Marina Fiorato, author of the acclaimed historical novel The Glassblower of Murano, comes a triumphant return to historical Venice with Venetian Bargain.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

MARINA FIORATO is half-Venetian and a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she specialized in the study of Shakespeare's plays as an historical source. She has worked as an illustrator, an actress, and a film reviewer, and designed tour visuals for rock bands including U2 and the Rolling Stones. Her historical fiction includes The Daughter of Siena, The Botticelli Secret, and her debut novel, The Glassblower of Murano, which was an international bestseller. She was married on the Grand Canal in Venice, and now lives in London with her family.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Venice Christian Year 1576

Sebastiano Venier, Doge of Venice, gazed from the stone quatrefoil window, with eyes that were as troubled as the ocean.

His weather-eye, sharpened by many years at sea, had seen the storm approaching for three days, clotting and clouding on the horizon and rolling in across the sickly amethyst waves. Now the maelstrom was here, and it had brought with it something more malign than ill weather.

With his flowing white beard and noble countenance, the Doge had been immortalized by Tintoretto and been compared to Neptune who also ruled a seabound kingdom. He had even, in hushed tones, been compared to the Almighty. A profoundly devout man, the Doge would have been deeply troubled, for different reasons, by each com- parison; but today he would have given anything to have the omnipotence to save Venice from her darkest hour.

He watched as six figures, huddled together against the elements, hurried along a dock already glazed with water at every flow of the tide, the ebb tugging at the hems of their black robes. The cloaks and cowls gave them a monastic look, but these six men were men of science, not religion. They dealt in life and death. They were doctors.

As they drew closer he could see their masks clearly;

bone-white beaks curving in a predatory hook from the dark cowls. The masks were frightening enough, but the reason for them even more ominous.

They were his Medico delle Peste. Plague doctors.

They were six scholars, men of letters from good fam- ilies, all schooled at the best medical academies, one for each of the six sestieri of Venice. To see the Doctors together was an ill omen. Doge Sebastiano Venier doubted that they had ever even met together before; and they seemed to him to swoop like a murder of crows at a graveside. Perhaps his own. His shoulders dropped for an instant; he felt very old.

He watched the doctors wade along the peerless Riva degli Schiavoni, one of the most wondrous streets in the world, and knew that any minute now they would enter his great white palace. The Doge’s skin chilled as if sea-spray had doused him. He leaned his head against the cool quar- rels of glass, and shut his eyes for one blessed instant. If he hadn’t done so, he might have seen a Venetian galleass sail- ing swiftly away on the dark and swelling waters; but he did close his eyes for a couple of heartbeats, just to be still and breathe in the salt ether.

The smell of Venice.

Sebastiano Venier straightened up, reminding himself who he was, where he was. He looked at the delicate stone- work of his windows, the finest Venetian glazing keeping the thunder of the sea from his ears. He looked up, tilting his noble head to the ceiling and the peerless frescoes of red and gold painted over hundreds of years by the finest Venetian artists, covering the cavernous, glorious space above. And yet, all the riches and the glory could not keep the Pestilence from his door.

The Doge settled in his great chair and waited for the

doctors to be announced. They filed in, dripping, and semi- circled him like vultures, the red crystal eyepieces set into their masks glittering hungrily, as if ready to peck the very flesh of him. But the moment they began to speak, the Doge ceased to be afraid of them.

‘We had expected it, my lord,’ said one. ‘In the botanical gardens of the Jesuiti, there have been of late unusual numbers of butterflies – hundreds upon thousands of them.’

The Doge raised a single, winter-white brow. ‘Butterflies?’

The doctor, failing to register the steel in the Doge’s tone, prattled on. ‘Why, Doge, butterflies are well known to be harbingers of pestilence.’

‘It is true,’ chimed in another. ‘There have been other signs too. There is a bakery in the Arsenale, and when you tear the loaves in twain, the bread itself begins to bleed.’

The Doge rapped his fingertips on the arm of his chair. ‘The fact that the pestilence has arrived in Venice is not a matter for debate. The question is, how to best treat the Plague.’

It was no use. One physician wanted to combat the pesti- lence by advising his patients to wear a dead toad around the neck. The next advised backing a live pigeon into the patients’ swollen buboes in the groin and armpit, so that the tail feathers could draw out the poison. They began to talk over one another, their beaks almost clashing, the masks now ridiculous; the doctors’ learned, mellow voices raised in pitch until they were quacking like so many ducks.

The Doge, irritated, found his attention wandering. These physicians were charlatans, buffoons, each one more self-important than the next. His eyes drifted to the shadow of an arras, where a man, an old man like himself, stood

listening; waiting for the moment when the Doge would call him forth, and tell him why he had been summoned.

The old man in the shadows – who happened to be an architect – was not really listening either. Always more interested in buildings than people, he was admiring how the stone cross ribs above his head described the curve of the ceiling, and how the proportions of the pilasters complemented the great panels of the frescoes.

Like the Doge, he had felt an initial jag of fear when he had seen the doctors enter the room. Everyone, from the Doge to the meanest beggar, knew what the masks meant. The Plague was in the city. But the architect was not overly concerned. There had been a minor outbreak of Plague two years ago, and he would do now what he’d done then. He would leave the city and go into the Veneto; perhaps back to his old home, Vicenza. There, in the hills, he would wait and plan and draw. He would sip wine while he waited for the Plague to slake its own thirst. With a fast boat to Mestre and a faster horse to Treviso, he could be at Maser by sunset, at the house of his good friends the Barbaro broth- ers. There would be room at their house, he knew it; after all, he had built it. As soon as he had found out what the Doge willed he would be gone.

 

The Doge had heard enough. These doctors could not help Venice. They would dispense their potions and remedies, make gold along the way, and some citizens would live and some would die. He grasped his chair until his knuckles whitened and as he looked down in despair. His own hands

depressed him – gnarled and veined and liverspotted. How could an old man hold back the Plague?

He cleared his throat. He must act. He could not let his legacy be to allow this jewel of a city to be blasted by pesti- lence. The Doge’s old heart quickened. He got to his feet, his blood rushing to his head. ‘You are dismissed,’ he said to the doctors, slightly too loudly. ‘Get out.’ He flapped his arms as if to scare them away like the crows they were. He waited till the doors had closed behind them. ‘Andrea Palladio,’ the Doge said, his tones ringing out in the great chamber, ‘come forth.’

Palladio stepped from the shadows, and walked to stand before the Doge’s great chair. The wind rattled at the case- ments, bidding to be let in, bringing its passenger the pestilence with it. Palladio fidgeted, anxious, now, to be gone; but the Doge, his anger spent, had taken his seat again, and seemed in a reflective mood.

‘Have you heard of the miracle of Saint Sebastian of Giudecca?’

Palladio frowned slightly. Although he had never met the Doge before, he knew of him by repute; a sea lord of forty years standing, deeply devout, respected, and intelligent enough to have avoided the Republic’s dreadful prisons through many successive councils of The Ten. Had Sebastiano Venier come to the greatest office too late? Was his mind now addled? Through the windows he could see the island of Giudecca, battered by rain, but still one of the most beautiful sestieri of Venice, curving round the back of the old city like a spine. ‘Yes, of course.’ He answered slowly, wondering where the question tended. The Doge began to speak again, as if telling a tale or preaching a parable.

‘In the grip of the last great Plague in 1464, a young sol- dier came to the gates of the monastery of Santa Croce on Giudecca and called out for water. The sisters were all within, the Lady Abbess herself suffering from the pesti- lence. The portonera, one Sister Scholastica, came to the gate. When she cast her eyes on the young man she saw he had armour of shining silver, hair of golden fire and eyes of sapphire blue. Awed, she passed him a cup of water on the convent’s wheel, and he drank. The vision thanked Scholastica and instructed her and all her sisters to pray to Saint Sebastian day and night, and drink of the water of the well. If they did this, the convent would be spared of the Plague. Then he struck his sword to the ground and departed from her, as if no more than a wisp.’

Palladio, who had been wondering how fast he could get to Mestre once the Doge was done, felt prompted by the sudden silence. ‘What happened?’ he asked.

‘The Lady Abbess recovered that night, as did every other nun who was ill. None of the other sisters was touched by the Plague, and all those who drank of the well were saved.’ The Doge rose and stepped off his dais. He walked to Palladio and faced him, looking down from his greater height. ‘The monastery was a place of pilgrimage for many years, and the people took the waters from the well for the Plague, and later, other ailments. When I was born, four doors away from Santa Croce in the Venier Palace, I was named Sebastiano after this miracle. But now the convent is a ruin.’ He fell quiet.

The wind whistled into the silence. Palladio thought he knew, now, what was required of him, and his heart sank. For years he’d wanted to build on Giudecca, an island with good ground of solid rock and some of the best vistas on to

the lagoon. For years he’d petitioned the Council of Ten for a site there, to no avail. But now, when all he wanted to do was quit the city, the very thing he wanted most was to be presented to him. Palladio’s thin mouth twisted in half a smile. Sometimes he thought that the Almighty had a rich sense of irony. ‘And you want me to rebuild the monastery of Santa Croce?’

‘No, not precisely that.’ The Doge crossed to the window once again. ‘Look at them, Andrea.’ With a sweep of his gnarled hand he invited Palladio to look down on to the wondrous expanse of Saint Mark’s Square. Two prostitutes strolled below the window in their traditional yellow and red, and despite the lashing rain, their breasts were bare and swinging freely as they walked.

Palladio, too old to be moved by such sights, spotted one who was not; a man watched them from the arches of the Procuratie Vecchie, his hand revoltingly busy in his crotch. The watcher beckoned the women into the arch with him, and, as soon as a coin had changed hands he pushed one against one of the noble pillars of the loggia, rutting and thrusting below her bunched skirts. The other woman pushed her hand down the back of his breeches to assist her client’s pleasure. ‘In the street, Andrea,’ said the Doge, turning away. ‘In the very street. That magnificent pillar, constructed by your brother-architect Sansovino to make this square the most beautiful in the world, is now a polly- pole.’ He sighed in counterpoint with the wind. ‘The licentiousness, the decadence, it is getting worse. Such behaviour used only to manifest itself at Carnevale, for two short weeks of the year. Now such sights are commonplace. We are known for it abroad. Derided. They do not speak of Sansovino’s pillars, nor your own villas and churches. They

speak of the whores that ply their trade in the streets.’ The Doge placed his hand on the window catch, trying it, as if to make sure the miasma was kept out. ‘And once word spreads about the city that the Plague is with us, it will be worse. The shadow of death does strange things to a man – he becomes lawless, and he feels he must rut and steal and lie and make coin while he may.’

Palladio was trying to connect the fractured tracks of the Doge’s discourse, the miracles and the harlots.

‘Only one man can save these wanton, wonderful people from the Plague, and from themselves, and it is not I.’

Palladio thought of the six doctors of the sestieri, none of whom seemed to be worthy of the mantle of saviour. Then he realized that the Doge was speaking of Christ, and he arranged his features into an expression of piety. The Doge turned his watery blue eyes upon him. Pale and rheumy, the orbs looked old and defeated. ‘You are that man.’

Palladio’s expression of reverence dropped with his jaw.

‘Don’t you see? God is punishing Venice. We need an offering, a gift so great that we will turn the edge of the divine anger and stay His hand from smiting our city. If medicine cannot help us, then we must turn to prayer. You, Andrea, you will build a church, on the ruins of the convent of Santa Croce. You will work in the footsteps of Saint Sebastian and build a church so wonderful, so pleasing to the glory of God, that it rivals His creation. And when you are done, the people will come, in their hundreds and thou- sands, and turn to God; they will praise Him with their voices and thank Him upon their knees. The power of prayer will redeem us all.’

Palladio blustered his reluctance. ‘But . . . I’d thought,

of course I’d be honoured, but perhaps I could direct operations from Vicenza or maybe Treviso . . .’

The sentence died under the Doge’s eye, and the wind whistled in mockery. The Doge let a moment pass before speaking. ‘Andrea. We are old men. The time left to us is short. You will stay in Venice, as will I. There is no greater service you can render your city than this. Don’t you see?’ He took Palladio’s shoulders in his hands, with a surpris- ingly strong grip. ‘You are entering into a contract with God himself.’

Palladio remembered that as a young mason he always used to find fossils in the stone that he worked. No day would pass without him finding at least one nautilus, fossilized in its perfect Vitruvian spiral, compressed and entombed for thousands of years in the Carrera marble. And now he was equally trapped: his appointment held him; he was imprisoned, literally, in stone.

He recognized the devotion in the Doge’s eyes and knew that Sebastiano Venier would not be gainsaid. How could he ever have thought the Doge’s eyes were those of an old man? They blazed now with the blue fire of the zealot, the fire of Saint Sebastian. Even if he’d had the courage to refuse, the proximity of the prisons settled the matter. Palladio bowed his head in silent acquiescence.

The Doge, who had not been anticipating a refusal, called for his chamberlain. ‘Camerlengo, take Signor Palladio to his house – he is to have everything he needs. And, Camerlengo,’ he called as the chamberlain was about to follow Palladio through the great doors, ‘now find me a real Doctor.’

 

Chapter 1

Constantinople, Ottoman Year 983 One Month Earlier

Feyra Adalet bint Timurhan Murad took extra care with her appearance that morning.

Her father had already left the house, so she could not – as she often did – put on his clothes. It was common in Constantinople, among the poorer families, for women and men to wear the same; male and female cloth...

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Book Description St. Martin s Griffin, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Venice, 1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man, more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague--and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge. But the ship also holds a secret stowaway--Feyra, a young and beautiful harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan s concubine. Only her wits and medical knowledge keep her alive as the plague ravages Venice. In despair, the Doge commissions the architect Andrea Palladio to build the greatest church of his career--an offering to God so magnificent that Venice will be saved. But Palladio s life is in danger too, and it will require all the skills of Annibale Cason, the city s finest plague doctor, to keep him alive. What Annibale had not counted on was meeting Feyra, who is now under Palladio s protection--an impossible woman whose medical skills and determination are matched only by his own. From Marina Fiorato, author of the acclaimed historical novel The Glassblower of Murano, comes a triumphant return to historical Venice with Venetian Bargain. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9781250042958

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Book Description St. Martin s Griffin, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Venice, 1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man, more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague--and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge. But the ship also holds a secret stowaway--Feyra, a young and beautiful harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan s concubine. Only her wits and medical knowledge keep her alive as the plague ravages Venice. In despair, the Doge commissions the architect Andrea Palladio to build the greatest church of his career--an offering to God so magnificent that Venice will be saved. But Palladio s life is in danger too, and it will require all the skills of Annibale Cason, the city s finest plague doctor, to keep him alive. What Annibale had not counted on was meeting Feyra, who is now under Palladio s protection--an impossible woman whose medical skills and determination are matched only by his own. From Marina Fiorato, author of the acclaimed historical novel The Glassblower of Murano, comes a triumphant return to historical Venice with Venetian Bargain. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9781250042958

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Book Description St. Martin s Griffin, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Venice, 1576. Five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship steals unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man, more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers into Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from Constantinople. Within days the city is infected with bubonic plague--and the Turkish Sultan has his revenge. But the ship also holds a secret stowaway--Feyra, a young and beautiful harem doctor fleeing a future as the Sultan s concubine. Only her wits and medical knowledge keep her alive as the plague ravages Venice. In despair, the Doge commissions the architect Andrea Palladio to build the greatest church of his career--an offering to God so magnificent that Venice will be saved. But Palladio s life is in danger too, and it will require all the skills of Annibale Cason, the city s finest plague doctor, to keep him alive. What Annibale had not counted on was meeting Feyra, who is now under Palladio s protection--an impossible woman whose medical skills and determination are matched only by his own. From Marina Fiorato, author of the acclaimed historical novel The Glassblower of Murano, comes a triumphant return to historical Venice with Venetian Bargain. Bookseller Inventory # BTE9781250042958

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