Robin Maxwell's articles @ Huffington Post
Signora da Vinci JANE Augie Appleby
For Reading Groups...


Signora da Vinci is a perfect book for devouring by book clubs. I've balanced the intimacy of a mother-son relationship, and the passionate love that Caterina da Vinci finds with the greatest man in Florence, with a gripping Renaissance adventure. There's even a fabulous recipe --  "Caterina's Grape and Olive Compote" -- that can form the centerpiece for a festive Italian menu at the group's meeting.

It means so much to me as an author that book groups are reading and discussing my novels.  These are the modern-day "salons" that perpetuate culture and ensure that literature continues to survive and thrive in such uncertain times.  Thank you so much for your support!

15th century recipe: Grape and Olive Compote

Readers Guide Questions

1) Caterina's life seems, from the beginning of the story to the last page, to be based on deceit. Did this bother you at all? Do you think she should have regretted it more, or do you think the ends justified the means?

2) Did you find it believable that Caterina fooled as many people as she did with her disguise?

3) What did you feel were Caterina's strengths? Her weaknesses? How did you feel about her relationship with Lorenzo? Her father? Leonardo?

4) Did you ever feel that Caterina was an overbearing mother, or became too involved in her son's life?

5) What surprised you the most about Caterina's character as you went through this journey with her?

6) As portrayed in this novel, was Leonardo da Vinci a sympathetic character? If you had lived at the end of the 15th century in Italy, would you have like to have known him?

7) Did knowing that the heroes and heroine of Signora Da Vinci believed in pagan and Hermetic principles rather than Christianity make you like them any less? Any more? Have you explored any religions outside the Judeo/Christian/Muslim tradition?

8) Did the practice of Alchemy by the members of the Platonic Academy strike you as a plausible pastime? Do you feel, after reading this book, you have a better understanding of medieval alchemy?

9) What aspects of Leonardo's life and career were most interesting to you - his art, inventions, dissections and anatomical drawings, his philosophies and notebooks? If you had had a chance, what questions would you have asked the maestro?

10) All the Medici men suffered from severe gout and many of them died of its complications. Does this surprise you? When you think about the middle ages, what other diseases do you associate with the times?

11) Does reading this book make you want to further explore any aspects of the Italian Renaissance, the characters or plotlines Robin Maxwell has written about?

12) Some historians see the Dominican Friar, Savonarola, as a church reformer and martyr. Do you feel that the citizens of Florence deserved his extreme "reigning in" of their luxurious lifestyle, his "bonfires of the vanities?" Do you think he deserved burning at the stake?

13) Before reading Signora Da Vinci , did you believe the Shroud of Turin was authentic, or a hoax? After reading this book, have your feelings shifted? Is a camera obscura photograph of a corpse's body and Leonardo's face a reasonable explanation in your mind?

14) The author portrays Roderigo Borgia quite sympathetically. From what you know, or have read about the Borgia family in general, was his positive characterization plausible? Did you find it hard to believe that even a pope might have Hermetic and pagan leanings?

15) Did Lorenzo il Magnifico Medici seem too-good-to-be-true as a medieval ruler? As a human being? Do you think he should have been written with more foibles, or did you enjoy falling in love with him as Caterina and the author, Robin Maxwell, did?

16) Superstition, with its omens, heavenly signs, talismans and worshipping of holy relics, played a huge role in medieval life. What are the modern equivalents of these beliefs?  

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"Maxwell tells the story of Caterina, a young alchemist’s daughter whose illicit love affair brings her the greatest love of her life, her genius son Leonardo. In order to watch over and protect him, she escapes from the restrictions of her gender, entering into a seductive garden of philosophy, art, learning and danger. From the dusty streets of Vinci and the glories of Il Magnifico's Florence, to the conspiratorial halls of Rome and Milan, the book celebrates one woman’s unquenchable ardor for knowledge, and a secret world that historical fiction readers rarely see."
— C.W. Gortner, author of THE LAST QUEEN

"Signora da Vinci is without a doubt the best historical fiction I have read all year. In her most remarkable novel yet, Robin Maxwell takes us back to the Italian Renaissance to give us a beautifully rendered and captivating portrait of Leonardo da Vinci's mother, Caterina. A masterful blend of fact and fiction, Signora da Vinci mesmerizes."

— Michelle Moran, Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen

"Here is a superbly imagined portrait of a woman living in turbulent times who boldly behaved as few dared.  Caterina da Vinci moved in a world that included the glittering Medici and the villainous Savonarola, all of whom are well-limned in this sparkling epic. Set in the sunshine of 15 th century Tuscany, the novel continually delights with intriguing details, from the bottega workshops of the great Italian masters to the minutiae of an alchemist's laboratory."

Vicki Leon, Uppity Women of the Renaissance, Working IX to V
For Reading Groups - Readers Guide Questions
Bonus Passport to Leonardo and Caterina's World!
15th CENTURY RECIPE: Grape and Olive Compote
What is "The Shadow Renaissance?"
Was the Shroud of Turin the world's first photograph?
Signora da Vinci JANE Augie Appleby NEW! ATLANTOS
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