The Tuscan Contessa by Dinah Jefferies
English | 2020| Historical Fiction | ePUB | 3.1 MB
FROM THE NUMBER 1 BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE TEA PLANTER’S WIFE and TOP 10 SELLING THE SILK MERCHANT’S DAUGHTER.
ONE WAR. TWO WOMEN. WILL THEY BE ABLE TO SAVE THE ONES THEY LOVE?
A sweeping new novel from the number one Sunday Times bestselling author of The Tea Planter’s Wife
In 1943, Contessa Sofia de’ Corsi’s peaceful Tuscan villa among the olive groves is upturned by the sudden arrival of German soldiers. Desperate to fight back, she agrees to shelter a wounded British radio engineer in her home, keeping him hidden from her husband Lorenzo – knowing that she is putting all of their lives at risk.
When Maxine, an Italian-American working for the resistance, arrives on Sofia’s doorstep, the pair forge an uneasy alliance. Feisty, independent Maxine promised herself never to fall in love. But when she meets a handsome partisan named Marco, she realizes it’s a promise she can’t keep…
Before long, the two women find themselves entangled in a dangerous game with the Nazis. Will they be discovered? And will they both be able to save the ones they love?
In the small piazza overlooked by shuttered windows, balconies and terracotta roofs, the heat hangs heavily, the air smells of smoke, and the inhabitants are either asleep or hiding. The only voices are those of tiny swallows, but when a large black-winged crow takes flight from the top of the crenellated tower, an ear-splitting screeching starts up. Another crow follows. And another. Three crows, the old lady thinks. Three means death. She counts them off on her fingers before sipping her watered-down wine where she sits on a chair in the doorway of what had once been her son’s house. Despite the warmth of the evening, she wraps a frayed woollen shawl around her shoulders and stifles a yawn. ‘Old bones,’ she mutters.
The ancient stone buildings surrounding the square gleam in the golden sunlight: homes, a couple of shops, the manor house with its large casement windows and the deep eaves from which water drips in the winter. Plus, a single archway into the village, wide and high enough for a horse and carriage. Blowsy crimson roses planted in a clay tub climb as far as the first floor of the manor, their heady scent drifting in the early-evening air. Before long, the sun – at present a mellow ball shining in the azure sky – will begin to sink and the sky will be threaded with red.
It is a rare peaceful hour, but the tranquillity is disturbed when a shriek echoes around the square. A few dark shutters rattle. One flies wide open and a startled young woman looks out from her window, eyes fixed on the piazza. What now? What can it be now? And the old lady glances up as if she might already know what now although there’s nothing to see but for a few pigeons fluttering to the cistern in the centre.
A breeze rustles the flat leaves of a fig tree and a young boy races through the huge curved archway, shrieking again as he chases after a white three-legged dog, the child’s crust of bread clamped between its jaws. They circle the cistern until the child slips on a fig and the old lady laughs as the dog escapes. Good for you, little three-legged, she whispers, though she knows the child and his grandmother, Carla, too.
A woman in blue walks into the square and stops in view of the tower. She signals to another woman and points to her right. ‘Try that way.’ After the other one slips through a doorway into the darkness, the woman in blue heads towards the tower, only pausing momentarily when she hears an engine. Surely not the Germans, not now. Allies then? She takes a second to cross herself and then carries on.