Friday, January 9, 2015

Review: "The Towers of Tuscany" by Carol M. Cram

Synopsis:  Sofia is trained in secret as a painter in her father’s workshop during a time when women did not paint openly. She loves her work, but her restless spirit leads her to betray her extraordinary gifts to marry a man who comes to despise her for not producing a son.

After Sofia’s father is crushed by his own fresco during an attack motivated by a vendetta, Sofia realizes she must escape her loveless marriage. She flees to Siena, where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her.

Meticulously researched settings and compelling characters are united with a strong heroine in this rich portrait of medieval Italy.

My Thoughts:  The Towers of Tuscany is a fascinating read.  I am not familiar with Italian history at all but I was enthralled by the descriptions of life in medieval Italy and work of artists living there.

I really enjoyed reading about the process of creating a painting and all the work involved.  I knew it was a complicated process but I had no idea how much work an artist put into creating one painted panel.  I loved the vivid descriptions of the paintings themselves; the way the figures looked, the colors, the symbolism, etc.  I also enjoyed the descriptions of Siena and the town of San Gimignano.  The way she described the towers and the different buildings as well as all the twists and turns in the city of Siena just made me want to visit Italy now. 

Sofia was an interesting character.  She was strong-willed woman who was determined to follow her dreams no matter what.  I liked her as a character but at times she seemed very full of herself and that got a little irritating. She was very unlucky in love and I felt kind of bad for her in that regard. There were a lot of great characters in this book but I think Francesco and Marcello were my favorites.  They were both so kind and devoted to helping Sofia and yet there was so much more to them.  They both had this quiet depth to them that made me want to know them more.

I was a little disappointed in the ending.  It felt very rushed and I had a lot of questions left unanswered.  Also, I wasn't quite sure of the Epilogue; I read it twice but I may have to go back and read it again because it just felt like it didn't go with the story.  Despite the way it ended, I did enjoy this book and am very interested in learning more about painting in Italy during this era.  3 stars.

About the Author:

Carol M. Cram is the author of The Towers of Tuscany, an historical novel about a woman painter in fourteenth century Italy. In addition to writing fiction, Carol has enjoyed a great career as an educator, teaching at Capilano University in North Vancouver for over twenty years and authoring forty-plus bestselling textbooks on business communications and software applications for Cengage Learning. She holds an MA in Drama from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Carol is currently focusing as much of her attention as she can spare between walks in the woods on writing historical novels with an arts twist. She and her husband, painter Gregg Simpson, share a life on beautiful Bowen Island near Vancouver, Canada. Visit her at


  1. I entered to win a copy of this on goodreads, but no dice. I love Italian history, being that I'm Italian myself, and I love the Medieval time period even more. Overall this sounds like a book I would really enjoy reading, minus the loose ends. I HATE when a great book has a disappointing ending! Thanks for the great review!

  2. You might want to try The Birth of Venus by Sarah Durant. It is also HF about a woman painter in the RenIssance, but this is based on an actual woman's life.

  3. Another is The Passion of Artemisia

    1. Thank you for the recommendations! I've heard good things about The Birth of Venus!


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