Lively Isabella is to live happily ever after by marrying Francisco Gonzaga, while her sister Beatrice is to wed the notorious future Duke of Milan. However, Isabella is attracted to the duke, going so far as to encourage his attentions through a year-long correspondence after she sees a portrait painted by Leonardo Da Vinci of the duke's mistress. It is her desire to be immortalized by the famous painter.

A series of events allows Beatrice to win her husband's love while Isabella pines for her opportunity to be Leonardo's model. She gets her wish when Beatrice dies at 22 and Leonardo, in search of another patron, arrives to sketch Isabella. In a twist of fate, he never uses the sketches, cheating Isabella of her chance at immortality.

Essex presents historical events and personages with a keen eye for detail in intrigue, gifting readers with an engrossing tale of political struggles, the Renaissance and a unique brand of sibling rivalry. SWEET (Jan., 352 pp., $21.95)
Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin