Leaving the Scottish border behind, Small heads to both new (Renaissance Italy) and familiar (the Middle East) territory in a lush and highly sensual tale: the first of the Silk Merchant’s Daughters quartet. Large in scope and heated, even sizzling, with passion — Fifty Shades has nothing on Small — Bianca harkens back to the style, sweep and sensuality that this beloved author is known for creating.
As the eldest daughter of a wealthy Florentine silk merchant, Bianca knows she will make an advantageous marriage. But when her father must relent to blackmail, Bianca is given to the sadistic Sebastiano Rovere as his bride. Bianca uses her wits and wiles to satisfy Sebastiano’s sexual appetite and penchant for punishment. She escapes her husband by hiding in a convent and then secretly traveling to a little-known family villa on the sea. There Bianca encounters an intriguing stranger: Prince Amir, grandson of Memhet the Conqueror. After the murder of her husband, Bianca is free to love him fully. However, Amir is a Turk, an infidel, and her mother will never sanction their marriage. But no one counts on Bianca’s determination to have the man she desires — to become his wife, and be part of his harem, where she will fulfill her destiny. (NAL, Oct., 432 pp., $16.00)