Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Have a sneak peek between the covers of Deborah Swift's intriguing novel — The Fortune Keeper #HistoricalFiction #Renaissance #Venice #BookOfTheYear #BlogTour @swiftstory @cathiedunn

The Fortune Keeper

Italian Renaissance Series

by Deborah Swift

Count your nights by stars, not shadows
~ Italian Proverb

Winter in Renaissance Venice

Mia Caiozzi is determined to discover her destiny by studying the science of astronomy. But her stepmother Giulia forbids her to engage in this occupation, fearing it will lead her into danger. The ideas of Galileo are banned by the Inquisition, so Mia must study in secret.

Giulia's real name is Giulia Tofana, renowned for her poison Aqua Tofana, and she is in hiding from the Duke de Verdi's family who are intent on revenge for the death of their brother. Giulia insists Mia should live quietly out of public view. If not, it could threaten them all. But Mia doesn't understand this, and rebels against Giulia, determined to go her own way.

When the two secret lives collide, it has far-reaching and fatal consequences that will change Mia's life forever.

Set amongst opulent palazzos and shimmering canals, The Fortune Keeper is the third novel of adventure and romance based on the life and legend of Giulia Tofana, the famous poisoner.


'Her characters are so real they linger in the mind long after the book is back on the shelf'
~ Historical Novel Society

Venice 1643

The day after meeting Brother Mario, Imbroglio arrived early at his bolt-hole – a second set of lodgings in the German quarter. The snow had stopped, but the pale winter sun was out and the place stank. It was above the night-soil collector, who took the human refuse by boat and dumped it at sea, out of the reach of men’s noses and away from the tidal flow into Venice. Though these lodgings lacked luxury, and were devilish damp, this place afforded him the privacy he wanted. On the top floor, with a sturdy door and a good firm mortise lock.

He had a semblance of luxury at the Palazzo Dario, but here the stink would certainly put off all but the brave-hearted. Imbroglio tried not to inhale. With luck and a following wind he’d be gone by summer. Thank God, he thought, because it would be unbearable here then. He thrust the shutter open to get some air, but banged it shut again as the stench increased.

Here, he was only Antonio Imbroglio, a poor pilgrim visiting San Marco. A crucifix was displayed prominently on the wall, for the sole benefit of the daily woman Signora Cicerone.

He peered out through the striated light of the shuttered window.

A few muffled-up street urchins were hanging on the corner hoping for work on the canal. They’d ignored him as he passed, as not rich enough to bother pestering. He enjoyed the switch of personalities – that one day he could be the count’s advisor, Signor Moretti, nobleman and Doctor of Law, parading in his fur-lined cloak, and another day, Antonio Imbroglio, the man who looked like a beggar.

Now to check the contents of his trunk, a nondescript looking cask covered in scuffed leather, of the type a poor traveller might use. All the accoutrements of his assassin’s trade were here. He heaved open the domed lid and brought out the contents one by one.

Picklocks, gloves, razor and whetstone, a pistol with a walnut handle, his good duelling sword.

He paused. Beneath lay the souvenirs of those he’d killed. Time was, he could draw out each object – each precious gold watch, each diamond-fobbed seal, each ’broidered kerchief – and remember the face.

Now there were so many it was a mere heap of scrim-shaw.

He ran a thumb softly over the edge of the razor. It would need to be sharpened. He’d vowed not to use the damn thing here in Venice; it was there only for emergency. But things had gone wrong, so now he’d have to re-think.

Curse Count D’Ambrosi. He shouldn’t have taken him on at cards. He should have realized the best gamblers in Europe were here in Venice at the Ridotto, and the stakes high. To his humiliation, Count d’Ambrosi had beat him playing Gillet and emptied him out. It looked bad, especially if he wanted a stake in the observatory – the biggest waste of money in Venice.

He began to sharpen the razor, thinking he’d be better off to sharpen his skills at cards. Meanwhile, thank God for Brother Mario and his pound of gold lira.

This time would definitely be the last, he swore to himself, because now, thanks to that measly monk, he was onto something. Tomorrow, he’d find out if Agnese di Napoli, formerly Agnese de Verdi, could shed any light on the whereabouts of Giulia Tofana and her Aqua Tofana. The thought of it quickened his pulse.

He liked to make people talk— before they were consigned to a place where they would never speak again. And imminent death was a marvellous incentive to loosen the tongue.

The rasp of the whetstone grew rhythmic in the quiet of the room.

Thank you for hosting me!


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Deborah Swift 

Deborah Swift is a USA TODAY bestselling author who is passionate about the past. Deborah used to be a costume designer for the BBC, before becoming a writer. Now she lives in an old English school house in a village full of 17th Century houses, near the glorious Lake District. Deborah has an award-winning historical fiction blog at her website 

Deborah loves to write about how extraordinary events in history have transformed the lives of ordinary people, and how the events of the past can live on in her books and still resonate today. 

The first in her series about the Renaissance poisoner Giulia Tofana, The Poison Keeper, was a winner of the Wishing Shelf Book of the Decade, and a Coffee Pot Book Club Gold Medal, and the latest in her WW2 Secret Agent series, Operation Tulip, is coming soon.

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  1. Thank you so much for hosting my extract!

    1. You're very welcome, Deborah. It's always a pleasure to host you and your wonderful novels. :-)