Italy. 1392. Béa, daughter of a volatile feudal lord, seeks stability after her fiancé’s death, but her father’s erratic behavior destroys her marriage prospects and poisons family relationships. As a dormant vendetta awakens, Béa must find a path to peace in her patriarchal world or risk losing her beloved brothers and her future.
“Gabriel, you’ll be the death of me. Let’s go.”
My brother ignores me as he studies the underside of the bridge over Frog River. Last autumn, some boys fishing on the riverbank saw a column of dust shake loose and pour into the water below. No one has found the source, but Gabriel thinks he sees a thin line among the stones, just before the second piling.
He’s fascinated, but I’m not. I see only a blur of rock and shade. I glance back at Monte d’Oro’s walls, bright against a bitter sky.
“Dear Béa. You’re strong; you’ll survive a little cold. We’ll be back before we’re missed. And it’s pears, you know. Pears.”
Last week, on the Feast of Sant’Agnese, Father Carlo preached that when Agnese fled from the man who lusted for her, she cried, away from me, food of Death! We asked why she called him food, and why Death should need to eat. Father Carlo said that to the Saints, sin tastes like death, but suffering tastes sweet. Gabriel transformed this lesson into a relentless and annoying game. Embarrassment tastes like spoiled fruit. Love tastes like lemon water. Somehow, he’s drawn me in, so that all morning, as we slipped undetected through the hidden South Gate and scrambled down the riverbank, we have argued about the taste of desperation. I say lentil soup, but he says pears. Ominous, succulent pears, early harbingers of winter’s suffering. Pears bring that first, fresh kiss of fear.