Thanks for having me today, Jane.
I’d like to share a new project of mine. As of today, June 30th, both books in my award-winning Loving Leonardo story are available in The Leonardo Chronicles. In this format, not only do readers get books 1 and 2 under one cover, they pay less than buying separately!
The Leonardo Chronicles
Loving Leonardo is a Victorian era, bisexual, polyamorous romance with a touch of reader-interactive art history. The story takes place in 1897 on the cusp of a new millennium. Ideas are changing -- the rise of the middle class, children in school, and voting rights for women are just a few key social issues ringing in huge changes. It's also the era of the Decadent movement. That's decadent with a D. Even Queen Victoria collected pornography! The end of the death penalty for homosexual men ushers in a new, yet guarded, freedom to love. This time of change is the backdrop for my romantic tale. The story itself touches upon the many shades of humanity from love and friendship to obsession and prejudice.
The main observer in this romantic tale is Nicolas Halstead: a homosexual man of means forced by society to wear a disguise. It‘s through his perspective that we see and feel his world. An art historian by profession, Nicolas can‘t help but compare life to art. (Because of this, he leaves many references to artists and artworks scattered throughout the pages. It isn‘t necessary for the reader to look them up, though to see what he sees will certainly add color to the tale.)
In an odd twist of fate, Nicolas meets a woman who's fully aware of his nature and the secrets that must be kept. With more pressing issues on her mind, she proposes marriage. Seeing the wisdom of having a tolerant spouse, he marries her. The pair go off on an adventure to save a rare and priceless book -- a book of love written and illustrated by one of the greatest minds of the Renaissance -- Leonardo da Vinci. Compatibility, comfort, and a deeply abiding friendship come to redefine their long held notions of themselves. And then Nicolas and Ellie meet Luca.
At this point you'd want me to say and they lived happily ever after. But a dangerous man with a deadly obsession has other ideas. The story is a series with two books in print and another on the way. I’ve so enjoyed writing these three lovers in their time period. They have one more book in the series and may very well go on to have many adventures after that.
Setting the Stage: Nicolas, Ellie, and Luca discover they have more than an
interest in Leonardo da Vinci in common.
I shook my head and explained my opinion, “For fifteen years the Mona Lisa went everywhere with him, it was even with him when he died. That’s hardly the action of a man who’d painted that portrait as a commission, is it? No, I see the work as a riddle. Her face compels us to try to read her character. Leonardo challenges us to interpret her thoughts, ‘to capture,’ as he said in his own words, ‘the motion of her mind and the passion of her soul.’ Then he draws a veil of ambiguity across her features and creates a riddle of her smile. On top of that, there is nuance to the form and shadow… something deliberate in the smoky quality akin to a magician’s trick.”
Luca asked, “The sfumato?”
That he knew the proficient’s term for the shadowy quality found in da Vinci’s oils surprised me. Nodding, I sipped my wine and continued, “The sfumato plays a role none of us knows, unless we learn the reason behind it from Leonardo’s own words. As I interpret it, the background and the subject are one and the same. In the Mona Lisa, I can see the artist’s face in the work. That’s clear when you see the man’s self-portrait and compare the two. But beyond the deliberate ethereal quality to the piece, there’s a part of me that believes the painting is a blending.”
I could tell Ellie was intrigued by the idea when she sat forward. “A blending, how so?”
“A blending of the artist himself, and Gian Giacomo Caprotti. This was the person for whom Leonardo held passionate love.”
Luca nodded. “Ah yes, Salai, the ‘little devil.’ I can certainly see that, now that you’ve mentioned it.”
In that moment I had the distinct impression Luca too was drawn to homoerotic art, led perhaps by his own sexual proclivity to identify with artists who walked a very different path in both love and life. Knowing how compatible Luca had been with our blond Dutchman, I was certain he’d find it interesting that Salai’s face and body could be found in several da Vinci artworks from sketches
to oils to frescos. In for a penny in for a pound, I threw my seeds to the furrow and voiced it, “He wasn’t free in society to love whom he wished. So he used his lover’s face and form in many works he created. What he didn’t reveal blatantly, he concealed in symbolism. But it was there, his lovers were there.”
Pausing with her grape in mid-air, Ellie said, “I find this topic utterly fascinating.” Then, in her bold-as-brass fashion, she turned to our guest and asked, “You’re not put off by the topic of Leonardo’s homosexuality, are you Luca?”
In Great Britain the topic on the table was not usually discussed in a lady’s presence. Not that my nymph of a wife minded, indeed, she voiced it plain enough. Luca didn’t answer right away, instead he sipped his wine. I wished in that moment I could read his thoughts for he appeared nervous. I wished for a lot in that moment.
Luca met her eye. “Did you know the ancient Greeks didn’t consider sexual proclivity to be a social characteristic? They didn’t distinguish a person’s sexual desire by biological sex, only by the role that he or she played in the act.”
Ellie took on her lovely blush, and for the first time I realized both desire and discomfiture lie within the hue. She asked plainly, “Do you mean to say all that mattered in ancient society was whether someone played the active penetrator or the passively penetrated?”
Bold-as-brass. I chuckled.
Luca’s smile widened and his shadow-blue eyes sparkled. “Yes.”
I believe we were all aware of a sexual tension growing in the intellectual-rich loam. There were little things at play now: the way Ellie moistened her lips and looked at us with eyes that lingered from one to the other. The way Luca’s irises had darkened from snow shadow to moon shadow as he looked upon her. The way I’d catch myself with a reminder to breathe as my eye was drawn to these small distinctions. Like da Vinci’s sfumato, our mutual attraction hung in the air, and I was struck by the notion that the smoky quality depicted in his art was desire. Desire like this.
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Rose Anderson is multi-published, award-winning
author and dilettante who loves great conversation and discovering
interesting things to weave into stories. She lives with her family and
small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills
of the upper Midwest.
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