From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up This novel, inspired by the life of a real court singer in late-17th-century Rome, re-creates a time under Pope Innocent XI when women were not allowed to sing in public. Angelica was born into a modest tradesman's home with a magnificent gift a beautiful voice that she can only exercise in the privacy of her home or a convent. Admirers from artisans to cardinals line up outside her house to listen to her practice. Her mother intends to use the girl's gift to secure her a wealthy husband and raise the family's status. Romance blossoms as a young French artist falls in love with the teen and the two begin an innocent exchange of drawings and notes through a servant girl. Angelica's voice grows with passion as she sings to Theodon through closed shutters. To avoid her mother's entrapping marriage plans, Angelica runs away to join the court of Queen Christina, a Swedish queen who converted to Catholicism and rules a quarter of Rome, where she defies the pope by allowing women to perform. As long as the Queen lives, her ladies are safe, but when her death is imminent, each one must plot her way to safety from the pope's guards. A slice of courtly life tinged with sexual misconduct by clerics, betrayal by Angelica's mother, and heartbreaking sorrow, this tale will appeal to female readers, who will admire the young woman's steadfast devotion against tremendous odds. Kathy Lehman, Thomas Dale High School Library, Chester, VA
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Gr. 9-12. Like Louise Hawes' The Vanishing Point
(2004), inspired by Renaissance painter Lavinia Fontana, Dines' first historical novel features another female artist straining against cultural expectations of a bygone Italy. Angelica Voglia, a real figure whose historical milieu and scant biography are addressed in a foreword and endnote, has a "miracle voice"--or is it the "devil's breath"? Her gift for singing exposes her to numerous threats: a manipulative, social-climbing mother; noblemen who see her public displays as an invitation to take liberties (and worse); and an austere papacy that persecutes women who sing in public. Eventually Angelica seeks refuge in the bohemian court of an expatriate Swedish regent, a path that Dines portrays not as an idealized salvation but one fraught with pitfalls. Angelica's personal story (especially her romance with a lowborn sculptor) is frequently eclipsed by details about her charismatic protectress and baroque-era Roman politics. But persistent readers, inspired by Angelica's determination to "look into [her] heart and speak the truths [she finds] there," should find sufficient motivation to sift through the overzealous historical context. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved